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First look at Tilton budget shows little change for 2011

October 13, 2010
TILTON — Selectmen got a look at a rough draft of the budget for Fiscal Year 2011 last week when Town Finance Officer Tim Pearson presented them with initial figures in a new format he hopes will be easier to work with.

Pearson eliminated some line items and consolidated or moved around others to make the budget easier understand. Not all the figures have been compiled yet, and shaded cells for those items indicate numbers he is still waiting for.

"This is just a first draft. I'm still waiting on the insurance figures for employees and I'll need a little more time to scrub through the numbers for wages, benefits and insurance for next year," he said.

He told the board there was very little new in the upcoming budget proposal and that it looked like it would be a flat budget, if not slightly below this year. One of the only changes he could point out was under computer expenses where the town would be asked to pay $1,750 for the start-up of online tax bill payments. Selectmen were not certain an online bill pay was something they wanted to support, especially in light of the expense for the program and the transaction fees charged by the credit card companies.

"That's why I understand a lot of towns don't take credit cards, because of the fees," said Sandra Plessner.

Salary increases for the coming year are minimal, Pearson said. The only employee raises figured into the budget draft are for contractual wage increases negotiated with the police department.

Long term debt will be lower in the coming year as some loans have been paid off, freeing up funds to help to keep the budget low. The next loan to be removed from future budgets will be the Silver Lake Road project, due for a final payment in 2012.

"I haven't totaled up the budget yet but it looks flat or perhaps under so far," he said.

Selectman Katherine Dawson said she was pleased to see the way the numbers were shaping up for next year.

"We're going to have to have the department heads in to explain themselves," she joked, "but this is good. I like this so far."

Pearson also told the board the current budget is at 65 percent as of September. Typically the budget is at 75 percent going into October, he said, and despite some minor adjustments he had yet to finish entering into the books, the town was under-expended at the moment.

"From a bottom line perspective we're in good shape," Pearson said.

Meetings with department heads will be scheduled in the coming weeks but selectmen will also begin sitting in on meetings with the Budget Committee when outside agencies are scheduled to appear with their financial requests from the town. Chairman Pat Consentino said they hope to streamline the budget process in this manner.

"By doing it this way, the outside agencies won't have to come back twice to explain their requests and both the board and the Budget Committee will each hear the same information from them at the same time," she said.

Town Administrator Joyce Fulweiler presented the board with a new nine month contract from Lakes Region Public Access Television. While LRPA finally identified and corrected audio problems with video from Tilton's board meetings, Consentino said she was not certain she was prepared to sign the newest contract with the firm.

"I'd really hate to pay that. We went eight months with no audio. Maybe we only want to pay part of that bill," she said.

Fulweiler pointed out the town has made no payment on the $6,000 service so far this year and the new contract only asks for nine months in payment, but Consentino said she was still hesitant to pay the amount requested. Dawson suggested they write a letter explaining their position for not signing the contract and begin talks from there.

Martin Lord Osman
Littleton Chmber
Varney Smith
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