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Lancaster's budget down from 2010


February 02, 2011
LANCASTER — The long and twisting process of creating a town budget — starting with each municipal department head to the town manager, the selectmen and then finalized by the town budget committee — now goes to the people for a their input at public hearing on Thursday, February 10, at 7 p.m. at the town hall.

Lancaster's proposed 2011 operating budget is $4.73 million, down from 2010's proposed and actual budget (including warrant articles) of $4.77 million and $5.06 million respectively. But, there are also nearly a million dollars in individual warrant articles, which will need to be voted on separately at the March 8 town meeting.

"The overall total operating budget is .084 percent less (about $40,000) than the previous year," explained Lancaster Budget Committee Chairman Dana Southworth. "And when you add in the proposed warrant articles, if they are approved, that will push the expenditures up to $5.718 million."

While most of the budget line items are less or very close to previous year's levels, some areas have increased including insurance and bonds from $109,323 to $121,200 (10.8 percent), advertising $15,000 to $16,679 (13.3 percent) and the "5 cent Can fund" from $5,900 to $7,500 (27 percent).

Southworth praised the town's unusual budget process, which includes the 10-member budget committee that scrutinizes and has the final say on the town's budget. But, he added, because of the quality and thoroughness of the department heads, town manager and the selectmen, his committee made "no substantive changes."

"This is a very good, bare-bones budget," he said. The role of the budget committee, he said, is not just about keeping budgets "artificially low" or ignoring cost over-runs or the condition of the town's infrastructure. It is also understanding the future fiscal health of the town, regarding the condition of the town's infrastructure, maintaining its strong municipal employees, and anticipating issues that mayy be facing the town in coming years.

A review of the 2010 proposed and actual budget shows that the vast majority of the town's budget line items under-spent their allotment. Town Manager Ed Samson said the philosophy is "if you don't need it don't spend it."

There are 21 warrant articles that total $986,345. The largest among them being $500,000 for the purchase of a ladder truck for the Fire Department (much of this is off-set by grant money), $135,000 to eight previously established Capital Reserve Funds, $107,000 for sewer aerators, and $100,000 for an excavator.

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