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Wolfeboro legal and welfare expenses continue to exceed budget

Selectmen review 10-year Capital Improvements Program

November 05, 2009
WOLFEBORO — Wolfeboro Finance Director Peter Chamberlin reviewed the town's expenses and revenue with selectmen at their Oct. 21 meeting and, overall, had good news to report – except in the areas of selectmen's and welfare expenses.

Through Sept. 30 (75 percent of the way through the year), General Fund expenses were 70.58 percent expended against budget, Electric Fund expenses were 69.74 percent expended and the Pop Whalen Fund expenses were 60.76 percent expended. Only Water Fund expenses at 78.3 percent were more than the 75 percent guideline. Overall expenditures, including capital outlays, were 70.45 percent expended.

Looking closer at the General Fund, however, showed that expenses for selectmen and welfare expenses are now both over their budgets for the year.

The Executive budget, which selectmen control, stands at 104.83 percent of the annual budget through September, having expended $292,398 against a total appropriation for 2009 of $278,928. Legal expenses at $111,789 were $41,789 (nearly 60 percent) over the $70,000 annual budget.

According to Town Manager Dave Owen, the main elements in the legal budget overage were tax appeals, labor negotiations earlier in the year, and litigation. A detailed breakdown was not available at press time.

The Welfare Department has spent 100.07 percent of its budget through September. Direct Assistance-Food was $11,596 over its $5,000 annual budget and Direct Assistance-Rent was $738 over its $70,000 budget.

Chamberlin reported that revenues were close to budget at 74 percent, and that is before "the imminent receipt" of the state room and meals tax distribution, which is expected to raise revenues to 83 percent of budget. Motor vehicle registration fees are holding their own and, despite lower prices for recyclable materials, solid waste revenues should end up on budget by year end.

Capital Improvements Program

Planning Board Chair Kathy Barnard presented selectmen with the 2010-2019 Capital Improvements Program (CIP), just completed by the CIP Committee and approved by the planning board. Town Planner Rob Houseman then reviewed the major elements of the plan.

The purpose of the CIP is to identify major capital improvements valued over $100,000 that the town will need to fund over the next 10 years. The current plan as presented describes a total of $49,153,190 in projects over that period, or an average of $4.9 million a year. The plan for 2010 identifies $4,914,000 in projects (reviewed below).

The CIP tries to smooth out expenditures over the 10-year period, but Houseman pointed out there is "a pig in the boa constrictor" in 2016 when the plan projects $6 million for a new library, $820,000 for electrical projects, and $3 million to develop a second water source, pushing up the total for that year to $11.5 million.

Houseman pointed out that the town averaged $3 million a year in capital improvements between 2000 and 2006. That rose to $3.6 million in 2000-2009, and in 2008 voters approved $3.5 million in projects. For 2009, however, only $1.9 million was approved.

Comparing the CIP plan with appropriations voted between 2005 and 2009 showed that of the $40,684,074 recommended in the CIP, only $17,763,342 made it through the budget process and was approved by voters.

The CIP for 2010 of $4,914,000 includes as either "necessary" or "urgent" $1,925,000 for the Glendon and School Street segment of the Downtown Streets project; $600,000 for the Center Street drainage project; $420,000 for converting the voltage on Pleasant Valley Road; $400,000 for Town Hall repair or reconstruction; $250,000 for ADA upgrades; $200,000 to resurface the tennis/basketball courts; $175,000 for stabilizing the banks of the Smith River; $100,000 for safe sidewalks to Carpenter School; and $100,000 to replace a 1.5 ton highway truck. Beginning next year the amount requested for road maintenance and upgrades is also increased from $400,000 to $550,000.

Of the $4.9 million, $1,135,546 would be paid through enterprise funds and thus not affect the tax rate. The remaining $3,778,454 would be paid from general funds, with $2,280,000 paid by issuing bonds.

The CIP program will now be reviewed by the board of selectmen and the budget committee.

250th Anniversary Committee

Accepting the recommendation of Wolfeboro Historical Society President Jim Rogers, selectmen agreed to form a committee to research and recommend a suitable memorial to commemorate the naming of Wolfeboro for General James Wolfe on Nov. 14, 1759. The appointed committee consists of Rogers, Tom Beeler, Dave Bowers, and Kathy Eaton. Town Manager Dave Owen will represent town staff and Linda Murray will represent the board of selectmen. The first meeting was held on Nov. 4 and will be reported next week.

Other business

Selectmen approved a request from Brittany Tufts to place a bench in memory of Stacey Burns on the Bridge Falls Path near Foss Field.

The board approved a change in hours for the Solid Waste Facility for the winter. The most significant difference is that the facility would be closed on Wednesdays as well as Thursdays. Manager Adam Tasker said that Tuesday and Wednesday are the slowest days of the week and that closing on Wednesdays would save fuel and electricity costs and cut down on overtime. Sunday hours will be extended by two hours, closing at 2:30 p.m. instead of 12:30 p.m.

The new times will be effective the week of Nov. 1 and run until April 1, 2010. The facility would then be open Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and on Sundays from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Selectmen decided against a request from the owner of the Wolfeboro Car Wash in Clarke Plaza for a reduction of up to $140 of sewer charges for the free car washes he will offer veterans on Nov. 11 for Veteran's Day. Murray felt that the free car washes do promote the business. Selectman Sarah Silk felt that granting the exception could be a "slippery slope" for the town. Vote to deny was 4-0. Selectman Kristi Ginter thought the amount of money was small and did not vote.

Silk reported that the final Household Hazardous Waste collection of the year the previous Saturday drew 177 households and collected $2,200 in non-member fees from people coming from as far away as Franconia.

Martin Lord & Osman
Salmon Press
Town of Alexandria
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