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Proposed budget shows less than 1 percent increase

December 23, 2009
MEREDITH — Level funding, scarce increases, and finding savings were some of the driving factors in the town manager's proposed budget of over $12.7 million

Town Manager Phillip Warren presented the proposed budget to the Board of Selectmen on Monday, the first step in the budget schedule leading to town meeting.

Warren said direction from the Board of Selectmen was for the 2010 budget to be level or less than 2009, and department heads were instructed not to exceed their 2009 budget.

Due to this, salaries and wages for 2010 will be frozen and there will be no step increases or Cost of Living Adjustments this year. Warren said town employees were concerned they would fall behind with no wage and salary increases. He said that while the town does not want to see that, Meredith employees are some of the highest paid in the state and the freeze was necessary to keep the budget level.

There will be no new positions of reclassifications, and vacancies due to voluntary separation will be evaluated by the town manager and not automatically filled.

The aim for the new budget is to maintain current service levels and maintain capital improvement program recommendations. CIP recommendations will be reviewed during final budget development.

Equipment purchases will continue to be held and there will be no new services or programs. The town also eliminated its use of janitorial services costing $64,000. Instead $6,500 in additional temporary wages were budgeted for the services to be done in-house by. This resulted in a savings of $57,500, though the figure does not include the library's $13,930 cost.

"We spent a lot of time squeezing the nickel," Warren said.

The Town Manager's recommended operating budget for 2010 is $10,825,403, an increase of $77,935 or .73 percent.

The Conservation Commission is budgeted at $1,515, a $17,500 drop mostly due to the Commission's contribution toward Page Pond and Forest.

Cable Franchise Special Revenue and regional associations will be level funded from last year at $24,806 and $219,062, respectively.

Debt service has decreased $74,839 to be $1,382,810 this year. Capital projects and CIP recommendations have also dropped to $255,000 in 2010, a $346,000 decrease from 2009's $601,000. Warren said the Town Manager's recommendation for this includes considerations for the stress in the economy and conservative fiscal thought.

The proposed municipal budget for 2010 is $12,702,597, a 2.8 percent drop from 2009's actual budget or a decrease of $366,403. Subtracting 2009's one-time capital projects of $365,000, the comparison between the proposed 2010 budget and the 2009 actual budget is a decrease of .01 percent or $1,403.

These figures do not yet include revenue projections. Warren said with the town's revenue "so volatile," he would wait until Jan. 4 when more concrete revenue figures arrive before factoring them in.

"I will feel much more comfortable on Jan. 4 because we will have closed our revenue budget for the prior calendar year," Warren said.

Warren said it is likely items will be held in the next budget year like they were in 2009.

Warren thanked the department heads and staff for their efforts, especially Administrative Services Director Brenda Vittner.

"I've been doing this for 14 years; I'm continually amazed when I show up to work here," Warren said.

After looking at the budget for the first time, Board Chair Peter Brothers said it followed the board's expectations.

"It basically fit our directive - it was a level funded budget," Brothers said. "I think waiting until the revenues are pretty well established will make it a little easier. If the revenues didn't come in, we're going to have to take another look at the expenditures. In the past they came forward with much bigger budget. I'm quite happy with what the department heads, the employees, and Phil had done. It makes the job easier and it's realistic."

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