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Planning Board votes to accept Littleton CIP

December 28, 2011
LITTLETON — Though it's a little late for a Capital Improvements Program (CIP) to impact the planning process for next year's budget, Littleton now has its first annual report.

The Planning Board voted unanimously to accept the document during its meeting last week, and the 150-plus-page document will next be handed over to the board of selectmen and budget committee, which will use it as a tool for future planning.

Last year an estimated $16 million price tag for all of the projects made municipal officials and residents nervous, and CIP committee members had to emphasize that the document was not binding and should not be used for justification of fiscal irresponsibility.

The committee, basically a subgroup of the Planning Board, has been working on researching and pulling the document together since last spring. Though it originally formed in 2009, the committee hit a snag when people realized that the proper state statutes were not in place to go forward. Voters approved a warrant article for the RSAs last March and the committee began work again soon after.

The hope is that the CIP will help manage growth, stabilize tax rates and budgets, and help plan for future development at least six years out

"Neither the CIP nor the process of developing it is a means to micro-manage the process of developing the budget," reads a portion of the abridged 20-page version. "The CIP is a tool to aid these groups in evaluating and prioritizing items for inclusion in the budget for a given year."

The known needs of eight departments, including the school, are laid out from 2012 through 2017, and each department had a hand in figuring out what those needs might be. The CIP will be revised every year as circumstances change.

In this year's summary, 2014 has the potential to be one of the more expensive years as a couple of big-ticket items may need to be addressed. Some of them, like the $260,000 for renovations to the town building for the town offices, may not happen, but it's part of the town's master plan, and the idea is to get people to think about what the town may need and to plan for it.

The projects also are ranked as critical, necessary or desired. The replacement of the fire department's engine No. three, estimated at $457,500 for 2014, is critical; the renovations for the town offices is "desired." Ten of almost 60 projects are categorized as "critical" — meaning it "addresses an emergency that threatens life, health or safety; is required by either state or federal law; is essential to continued operation of a function or department.

As for recommendations on developing a budget with taxpayers in mind, the committee had four suggestions: create a separate budget category for emergency management, make a commitment to energy efficient buildings, don't add bonded debt in the near future and coordinate or consolidate like expenses.

The CIP Committee members are Charlie Ryan, Arwen Mitton Mike Gilman as the Board of Selectmen representative, Jim Daly and Mell Brooks.

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