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Wolfeboro tax rate set at $11.04, up 4% from 2009

Selectmen approve 2011 budget of $25,611,112

November 11, 2010
WOLFEBORO — Town Manager Dave Owen announced at the Nov. 3 meeting of the Board of Selectmen that the state Department of Revenue Administration has approved the town's 2010 tax rate at $11.04 per thousand dollars of valuation, up 43 cents or 4 percent from the 2009 rate of $10.61 per thousand.

Owen said the town applied $1,078,000 of its surplus to keep the rate down. Property tax bills will be sent out shortly.

Following a month of budget hearings with every town department, the Board of Selectmen approved a 2011 total operating budget of $25,611,112. This was an overall increase of $837,677 or 3.38 percent over the $24,773,435 approved by voters last March for 2010.

The Wolfeboro operating budget consists of two parts: the General Fund, which is funded through property taxes, and the Enterprise Funds, which are funded through fees.

The proposed increase in the Enterprise Funds budget is only $80,608, to a total of $14,392,238, a rise of less that one percent (0.56 percent). The major increase for 2011 is in the proposed operating budget of $11,218,884 for the General Fund, which is up $757,079 or 7.24 percent over 2010. The major component of this increase is a $485,886 payment made in 2010 for principal and interest on sewer improvements. Unlike the other three Enterprises Funds (Municipal Electric, Water, and Pop Whalen), the Sewer Fund does not pay for capital improvements through user fees. Instead, the cost of improvements is paid through the General Fund, raised by taxes. Only sewer operating expenses are paid through user fees. This decision was made years ago in recognition of the fact that the user base was too small to pay for capital improvements, while the benefit of not polluting Lake Winnipesaukee was enjoyed by everyone.

Without the sewer payment, the proposed General Fund budget is up only $271,193 or 2.59 percent.

COPS grant hearing

At the Nov. 3 meeting selectmen held two public hearings: one on the acceptance of architectural plans for the renovation of Brewster Memorial Hall worth $45,000 from the Friends of Town Hall (see separate story) and the second to accept a grant for $256,884 from the Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) to pay for the hiring of an additional patrol officer, including benefits as well as pay, for three years.

Police Chief Stuart Chase said the hiring of this additional entry level officer would allow him to assign one current officer to detective work. He explained that the department now has no capability to investigate alleged crimes. Any investigations are done by patrol officers as time permits. One of the complaints on last year's survey was the lack of followup on cases, and creating a detective position would allow for that followup. Chase pointed out that Gilford has two fulltime detectives and Alton has one. He concluded by pointing out that the town's population has grown by 65 percent in 30 years, and another officer is needed.

Police Commissioner Curt Pike urged selectmen to accept the grant, saying that the department did need the additional officer. Even though the town would be responsible for paying for the officer after three years, "three years from now the economy should be better," he said.

Selectmen approved accepting the grant with a 5-0 vote.

Other business

Selectmen set Tuesday, Feb. 8, as the date for the town Deliberative Session, with Thursday, Feb. 10, as the snow date.

At the board's Oct. 20 meeting, selectmen voted 5-0 to sign the proposed agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice to settle town violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). See separate story in this issue on the settlement.

Despite receiving a petition from nine Birch Hill Estate residents asking them not to do it, the board voted 5-0 to release $500,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds, of which $475,000 would go toward site development and infrastructure costs of Phase I of the Harriman Hill workforce housing project.

At its Nov. 3 meeting selectmen finally accepted revised welfare guidelines for those seeking public assistance in the town. Among the significant changes was the addition of a checklist that the welfare director will go over with applicants and have signed, and the establishment of a maximum value of an owned vehicle at $15,000, beyond which the excess value would be considered cash.

Owen reported that the handicap ramps for Town Hall are nearly complete. He also told selectmen that contract negotiations have begun with the town's two bargaining units and that two new call firefighters have been added to the Fire-Rescue roster, bringing the total number of call firefighters up to 12.

Selectman Sarah Silk reported that she and Chairman Murray had met with Lt. Dean Rondeau of the Police Department, Deputy Chief Tom Zotti of Fire-Rescue and Dispatcher Mia Lyons to discuss radio coverage problems and what could be done to correct them, spurred by a recent incident on Browns Ridge Road where an officer was under attack and unable to communicate with the dispatcher. Silk said there were a number of inexpensive things that could be done, that the Lakes Region Repeater Association was involved, and that the group will be back with recommendations at the selectmen's Nov. 17 meeting.

Selectmen responded to a request from Highway Department Supervisor Doug Lemery to modify the town's no smoking policy to allow the supervisor of town workers on a job site to designate a smoking area for use during breaks and lunch time, provided the area is off the road and out of sight.

The board approved putting the Wolfeboro 250th Anniversary logo on the front of the 2010 Town Report and photos of the renovations at Dockside and the Railroad Station on the back cover, if costs would not increase.

Martin Lord Osman
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