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Center Harbor to see over 3 percent budget decrease

January 27, 2010
CENTER HARBOR — Line-by-line reductions and cooperation with department heads account for a 3.11 percent decrease in the proposed operating budget.

Center Harbor's proposed operating budget is $2,139,412. Factoring the $563,872 approved at the 2009 town meeting for the High Haith Bridge project, this year's proposed operating budget shows a 3.11 percent reduction.

A bond article for an even $1.3 is expected to go on the warrant for the proposed police station, making the total proposed budget with that article $3,498,869.

Selectmen said this year's budget was the result of cooperation between the town and department heads.

"It was a nice collaborative effort," said Board Chair Charley Hanson, indicative of the "normally conservative approach" town departments have taken toward the budget.

Hanson said department heads were advised to aim for a level-funded budget.

There were no single reductions that accounted for the budget decrease, only small reductions taken line by line that added up.

"I think our department heads did a really good job," said Selectman Randy Mattson. "They responded and we encouraged them to be very thoughtful with what they do."

Hanson said this year was influenced by being a 52-week pay year instead of the 2009's 53-week year.

Due to large increases in health insurance, Hanson said some costs were shifted back to employees.

Most departments did see some wage increases. An increase in the wages line item for the Fire Department also reflected the nearly 25 firefighters on the roster and more responding to calls. Hanson said three years ago there were closer to eight members of the Fire Department.

Total benefits increased by over $23,000 with $22,000 more budgeted for health insurance and nearly $4,000 more for retirement.

General welfare saw a significant increase due to the economy. Last year $14,000 was budgeted but $23,673 was expended. This year $25,000 is being budgeted.

Costs for heating and custodial services have been combined for the library and other town buildings.

A circuit rider planner is not being budgeted for this year as a town expense. The town has access to a planner through the Lakes Region Planning Commission and was budgeted last year for $12,000, though nothing encumbered. Hanson said there has been less need for a planner as the economy has significantly slowed building. As a result the circuit planner is being factored into the Planning Board budget.

The biggest ticket item on this year's warrant is the $1.3 million bond for the proposed police station. On Feb. 3 a hearing will be held at 6:30 p.m. only on the funding and budgeting of the police station. The final informational meeting on the station design will be held on Feb. 18.

The town is looking at creating a series of digital maps for the town in a $25,000 warrant article. The perambulation of town boundaries using GPS to locate markers is on the warrant for $4,400. Hanson said other neighboring towns have expressed interest in possibly contributing toward the project.

The town aims to create an expendable trust fund for energy conservation and improvements following the report on an energy audit by the Jordan Institute. Proposed improvements for town buildings ranged from inexpensive changes to more expensive equipment purchases.

Hanson said there are over $6 million in grants available for energy improvements. The fund is being set up in anticipation of possibly receiving funds that match what is in the trust. Members of the Energy Committee are in the process of writing grants for some funds.

The town is proposing to put an additional $40,000 in the sand/salt storage shed capital reserve fund. Last year $100,000 was put into the fund in anticipation that it would be built in the coming year. Bids, however, came in high and selectmen propose to put an additional $40,000 in the fund to cover the project.

Additionally, $5,000 will be put into a fund to replace self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) in the future for the Fire Department. Fire Chief John Schlemmer said the current apparatus is good for another 12 years.

The budget hearing will continue on Feb. 3 at 7:15 p.m.

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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