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Meredith ready for budget hearings

January 12, 2011
MEREDITH — Town officials are getting the final numbers together for this year's budget, including three additions.

At Monday's final budget workshop selectmen approved the figures that will move on to the budget hearing process.

Budget workshops started on Nov. 29 with the total initially including a $14,000 drop in the overall budget. After much discussion, three items have been added that were seen as essential.

A one-time salary adjustment totaling $72,500 is proposed for employees.

"One adjustment based on where we think they should be based on the information we have," said Selectman Colette Worsman.

Worsman emphasized that this is a one-time adjustment and not a step increase of Cost of Living Adjustment.

Selectman Peter Brothers said the town has returned around $465,000 of unexpended appropriated funds through the efforts of Town Manager Phil Warren, department heads, and employees.

"It was their efforts that helped us to do this savings," Worsman said.

An additional $27,500 was added for the purchase of a police cruiser with $26,000 being spent for the vehicle and the rest going for equipment installation. One cruiser was already planned for purchase this year with one deferred last year.

Warren said this is the last year the town will be able to purchase a Crown Victoria, any purchases after this year will be a different model of car; meaning current equipment will not fit in the new model and new equipment will have to be purchased. If a newer vehicle were purchased, the cost would be closer to $35,000. The decision was made to purchase an additional car this year for a $27,500 cost. The town is receiving money from Project 54 for light bars, automation, and other technology for cruisers that will minimize costs.

Another change was the addition of $10,000 to the general assistance budget. $120,000 has already been budgeted so far, the addition making the total $130,000. Warren and members of the Board said this amount might still not be enough for the growing requests.

Selectman Miller Lovett asked if there were ways the budget could be cut further to accommodate the additional items. Warren and other Board members said they could not find any other areas of the budget that could spare that amount without cutting services. Lovett asked if cutting services could be considered. Warren said cutting that much into services was not part of the direction the board gave him and he did not look into it.

"I'm 99 percent sure this would be the number you would go ahead with," Warren said.

Board Chair Chuck Palm said a similar action was taken last year by cutting lifeguards, a move the board later reversed due to protests from residents and possible liability concerns.

"I think we've done a doggone good job and our departments have done a good job," Brothers said. "I just don't know where we can, shall we say, pick that up with something else."

Lovett said he wanted to make sure the board looked over the budget with a fine-tooth comb to make sure there were no other areas.

"I just think we owe it to the public to look," Lovett said.

"I'm tough to add anything to the budget and I'm in full support of the three things I feel we've got to do," Worsman said.

The selectmen collectively agreed to go forward with the budget as proposed.

A budget hearing has been scheduled for Jan. 24 during the regular selectmen's meeting. Final numbers are in progress and will be ready for the hearing.

Martin Lord & Osman
Salmon Press
Alton School
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