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November 22, 2011
REGION — It was mostly good news for local towns over the past month, when tax rates were set by the New Hampshire Department of Revenue and property tax bills were sent out, or are soon on their way, in the case of some communities.

In Sanbornton, Town Administrator Bob Veloski received word just last week that the new rate in that town would rise 70 cents in the coming year, but on the positive side, that was lower than selectmen had anticipated in light of many bonds approved at Town Meeting in May. The rate went from $18.99 last year to $19.68 for 2011; however, it was originally projected to increase as much as $1.37, so the final determination was credited to some careful financial management.

"The increase was strictly because of the bonds approved at Town Meeting, and selectmen were able to offset those costs and bring the original anticipated amount down substantially," said Veloski.

Belmont received their rate much earlier in the month, and Town Administrator Jeanne Beaudin said the budget was relatively flat coming into the 2011 fiscal year, bringing only a two-cent increase in the town portion of the tax rate. The county portion of the bill decreased by 11 cents, and it was only due to school taxes that the taxpayers are seeing a 59 cent increase in their bills, which went from $20.96 per thousand to $21.56.

With careful financial management, Northfield was able to lower their tax rate to $21.28, six cents lower than the 2010 rate of $21.34.

Of the many components that determine the rates, the largest decrease in Northfield was in the town tax rate, which fell by 46 cents, from $5.74 to $5.28. Also helping in the decrease was the Merrimack County tax rate, which went from $2.49 to $2.37, and the state school tax, down from $2.25 to $2.20 per thousand in assessed property value.

Select board Chairman Geoff Ziminsky said the overall decrease for the coming year was in part due to a lot of "belt tightening" in the town budget, thanks to department heads and select board members who closely monitored expenses in order to keep taxes down for property owners in Northfield.

"I feel fortunate to be working with Selectmen Bluhm and Swancott. Our good working relationship, combined with a focus on maintaining a tight control on expenses, has resulted in an eight percent reduction in the town portion of the tax bill," Ziminsky said.

Town Administrator Glenn Smith reported that the decrease was otherwise offset by locally increased taxes for the Tilton-Northfield Fire District and the Winnisquam Regional School District, where an increase of more than five percent was seen.

"(Northfield's) school tax rate went from $9.32 to $9.81 while the fire district rate went from $1.54 to $1.63," Smith said in a written statement.

Across the river in Tilton, selectmen also worked with their budget committee and department heads throughout the year, and were able to come up with a 6.2 percent decrease in Tilton's town portion of the tax bill.

Finance director Tim Pearson reported, "Overall the total town rate, including the town's portion of the Tilton-Northfield Fire District, Winnisquam School District and State School Tax, declined less than one percent (seven cents) from $20.41 in 2010 to $20.34 per thousand in 2011."

Selectman Katherine Dawson noted that, besides a great effort by department heads, the budget and select boards, borrowing needs in the town have decreased in recent years, which is a sign of financial stability in the town.

Chairman Pat Consentino said the select board strives day in and day out to be responsible with both town funds and resident needs.

"At times, it's a delicate balance, but it is our fiduciary duty," she wrote in a statement to the press. "Even with a lower budget and uncertain revenues we were able to perform better than our original plan. As such, we were able to provide a lower rate to tax payers."

Salmon Press
Martin Lord Osman
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