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Budget up close to 2.5 percent over last year


November 25, 2009
LITTLETON—The first proposed budget for 2010 presented to the Budget Committee last Monday is showing an increase of less than 2.5 percent.

The proposed budget is $7,879,197, an increase of 2.44 percent over last year's approved budget of $7,691,747. The default budget, which would go into effect if voters do not approve the proposed budget at Town Meting in March, is $7,783,462, an increase of 1.19 percent over last year's approved budget.

Some of the largest increases came in the increase of health insurance for each department, as well as the increase in retirement for the police and fire departments, as the state cut the percentage it paid towards that line item.

Other large increases came in the increase of the welfare budget by $40,000, to reflect the current rates of expenditure. This line item must be funded according to state law, town officials have noted in the past.

Town officials are cognizant of the effect any increases will have on taxpayers. A budget summary sheet provided by Town Manager Chuck Connell noted that, "Every department considered the plight of the taxpayer in every calculation."

The proposed or default budget does not include $475,000 in warrant articles in the budget so far. The largest item is $150,000 to conduct a town wide property revaluation and $200,000 for paved roads, as well as $50,000 for sidewalks brought forward by petition.

There will also be a $500,000 warrant article to pay to move the town offices back into the Opera House but it will not affect 2010 taxes as it will not be borrowed until the following year.

An article on the warrant last year eliminating the Sidewalk/Hydrant Precinct means that the item goes in the general budget, rather than being paid for by a tax on property owners in the district. This is reflected in a $58,982 increase in the Highway Department Budget. Salt and sand was also increased over last year. It was cut last year as part of a cost cutting measure. Consequently, the department's budget went up by more than $80,000.

Payroll numbers in the budget do not reflect any changes as contract negotiations are currently ongoing and will be included in a later version of the budget.

Officials noted in the budget summary that, "Negotiations continue in a true atmosphere of mutual respect, shared concern for taxpayers and willing compromise."

Besides Welfare, with its $40,000 increase, the next largest department increase is the Fire Department, which went up almost $100,000, from $952,164 to $1,047,562. The increases there came mostly from a $33,000 increase in health insurance and retirement, a $20,000 increase in overtime (to reflect a more accurate e estimate than that presented in the past, officials said) and a $10,000 increase in money for call company firefighters.

The budget committee will continue to meet weekly through the budget season, which is the remainder of the fall and early winter.

Martin Lord and Osman
Salmon Press
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