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Budget items still on hold as fiscal year progresses

May 20, 2009
MEREDITH — With revenue for this year lagging behind 2008 and the state budget yet to be finalized, the town is continuing to hold off on several items until some of the unknowns get answers.

Interim Town Manager Brenda Vittner updated the selectmen on revenues and expenditures in Meredith as of April 30, noting that the revenue is down as compared to where it stood at that point in 2008. The difference is about $67,000, a drop of about 7.10 percent from 2008. Motor vehicle registrations, which make up the majority of the revenue, are down about 7.03 percent, or $28,277.

The estimate for motor vehicle registration revenue in 2009 is set at $1,225,000, a figure that was lowered earlier this year. With $402,215 already collected, about 33 percent, Vittner said that that figure was just about on track with their new estimate, and the hope is to make it by year's end.

Vittner noted that activity in revenue had been up in April and reminded the board that Meredith would see the bulk of its revenue in the coming months.

"We are seasonal," said Vittner. "We see most of our revenue between June and September. We've begun the switch to the new permits, and the new ones come into play on June 1. We're behind on motor vehicle registrations, but April was actually a pretty good month."

Unknowns still exist as the summer season gets underway, and the busy season for revenue in Meredith begins. The state budget, due in June, could have its own ramifications for the town's budget, especially the question of whether the rooms and meals tax will be distributed among New Hampshire towns.

The estimate for the amount that Meredith could receive this year is $259,508, and shared revenues are estimated at $31,493. If the town does not receive that amount, it could require some recalculations.

"If we lose the shared revenue, we'd have to make some changes to deal with the loss," said Vittner. "I still feel we need to hold these items until June."

Vittner referred to several budgeted items put on hold from being expended after the budget was approved by voters in March.

At the March meeting, Vittner said that the town would be looking at projects they could hold off on for now, at least until July. In the Solid Waste Department, for example, Vittner said, $45,000 is budgeted for the new trailers. It's a candidate to hold until July, and to keep holding onto it until the end of the year if revenue doesn't come in as the town hopes, she said.

Roads are a large part of this equation. Vittner said that of the $505,000 earmarked for road work in Meredith, she recommended using only part of it before July. General maintenance, important because "we don't want to lose what we have," is budgeted for an estimated $98,000, as well as a patch for Pleasant Street, at $10,000. Drainage repairs on Old Meredith Road are set at $72,000, and part of the phasing projects for Batchelder Hill Road is slated for $68,700. Repairs to other roads were either deferred till July, or until another year.

There is a drawback to holding off on road projects, though, noted Public Works Director Mike Faller at the March meeting. In looking at paving for the Batchelder Hill Road project, Faller said he had spoken to many paving companies in the state. Many of them, he said, were preparing for the price of liquid asphalt to go up as stimulus funds became available for towns and cities to use on road projects.

This week, though, Vittner said the items on hold "will likely be released." She also pointed to potential savings that individual departments in town are working on.

"I'm encouraged by these numbers," said Selectman Colette Worsman of Vittner's report.

"The state isn't finished, but I'm very comfortable with the dialogue you and (Interim Manager John Edgar) have had with the department heads," said Selectman Peter Brothers. "Your minding the store is appreciated. This is good, solid information."

Vittner gave the credit to the department heads, who were aware of the selectmen's work and are already keeping an eye on the fiscal year of 2010.

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