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Early look at Sanbornton budget, 'so far so good'

October 27, 2010
SANBORNTON — Town Meeting isn't until May, but already selectmen are looking at the budget for Fiscal Year 2011.

At their weekly meeting on Wednesday Finance Officer Curt McGee and Town Administrator Bob Veloski sat down with the board to discuss the numbers they have received thus far.

McGee said there will be necessary increases in worker's compensation and insurance benefits that cannot be disputed. Despite that increase, selectmen are hoping to come up with enough savings to give a 2-percent raise to town employees who have done without a raise throughout the current recession. McGee called the raises a "target," but acknowledged that it may not happen.

"Town employees did without a raise last year and we'd like to give them one, but that's the best we can come up with for now," said David Nickerson, chairman of the select board.

Selectmen have asked department heads to work toward a 2-percent decrease in their annual operating budget to help meet the cost of the raises.

McGee said selectmen will conduct seven separate reviews of budgets for town departments over the next few weeks, concluding in early December. Nickerson said that while it's still early, so far things are looking good and department heads are meeting the board's expectations. He said selectmen realize some expenses are necessary but they are trying to maintain their level of fiscal conservancy while meeting those needs.

In the meantime the Capital Improvements Plan committee will begin to meet in November to get a "wish list" from department heads and whittle the requests down to what they feel is necessary as they determine future expenditures for which the town should prepare. From there the requests will go to the selectmen and Budget Committee for review.

"They (CIP) will come up with a six-year plan. The first part of that will be included in this coming year's budget and we'll write up the warrant articles from there," McGee said.

CIP requests generally include major purchases like vehicles and large equipment, building repairs and other large projects. One solution to keeping annual requests to a minimum will be the creation of an account for money earned by special duties for police officers in Sanbornton. McGee and Nickerson said the town is currently looking to establish a revolving account whereby money returned to the town when an officer performs special detail duties for construction and other projects would be set aside for future needs of the department, much like an ambulance fund for the fire department.

The town bills $47 per hour for each officer on a special assignment to include their pay, insurance and administrative billing expenses. The remainder of that money generated, McGee said, could go into an account specially designed to serve the future needs of the department.

"We want to move this income to a revolving fund that could generate enough money to buy police cruisers when they need one and take away from the budget process," said McGee.

While fuel and electricity are other expenses the selectmen cannot control, Nickerson said they are working toward putting together a flat budget or hopefully one that will come in slightly below last year. They would like to save as much as possible for FY 2011 as in 2012 they foresee a slight increase due to capital projects for roadwork and other voter-approved bonds.

"It's only the beginning of a long process, but so far so good," Nickerson said.

Littleton Chmber
Varney Smith
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