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Meredith anticipating budget savings


December 01, 2010
MEREDITH — The Town Manager's recommended budget for 2011 shows a slight decrease, though Selectmen have just begun their examination.

The Board of Selectmen along with Town manager Phil Warren and Administrative Services Director Brenda Vittner began workshops for the 2010 budget on Monday.

The baseline of consideration has been the 2008 budget with direction given not to exceed the budget amount of every subsequent year since then.

In October, the Board gave Warren directions to not increase the municipal portion of the tax, no expansion or addition of programs and services, and hold equipment purchases unless there was a dire need.

Warren said the budget is not level funded and there is not a level service. Warren said positions that come up, due to the retirement of an employee or other reasons, are also being evaluated.

"We've also got to thank the town employees. This has been a wicked burden for them," said Selectman Nate Torr.

The general operating budget was proposed at $1,293,044.24, a $78,055.76 or 5.69 percent decrease.

The Town Manager's total recommended budget for 2011 is $12,425,294.26, a decrease of $4,048, or 0.3 percent, from the 2010 budget.

Vittner said the town was expecting a nine percent increase in worker's compensation, though Warren negotiated to a 2.5 percent increase that saved the town $7,000.

Warren also renegotiated the health insurance with Harvard Pilgrim that lead to a 5.1 percent increase as opposed to the originally expected 18 percent increase, a savings of approximately $30,000.

Vittner refinanced the debt service on the fire and police station projects and the town's portion of the Page Pond purchase that led to savings of $52,000.

Meredith joined with several other communities and school districts in a cooperative bid for heating oil with a locked-in price of $2.57 1/2, an increase of less than 20 cents from last year. The town could see savings as the town hall annex and the library have newer and more efficient heating systems.

A recalculation in the Parks and Recreation budget also resulted in a savings of $13,000.

Budget discussions are still ongoing and adjustments are likely to be made. Board members also suggested a $10,000 increase to general assistance to better anticipate possible requests for aid, which could result in a $6,000 increase to the total budget.

Selectman Peter Brothers said another factor in the future could be the ongoing deferment of capital improvement items. The town had an aggressive capital improvements schedule until the past few years. Brothers said while the roads and other items have been left in good shape, there is a possibility the town might see an impact from deferring those items that will have to be considered in future budgets.

"We're in better shape because we had a robust capital improvements program, but we are seeing the cracks in that," Warren said.

Board Chair Chuck Palm emphasized that the town can only control the municipal portion of the budget. Staying in touch with the other portions, such as the county, state, and school district, are also vital to the process, he said.

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