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Joyce Endee

Ossipee Budget Committee approves 2012 budget

February 16, 2012
OSSIPEE — With little public interest at their public hearing, Ossipee Budget Committee put the finishing touches on their proposed 2012 budget that will be voted on at Town Meeting March 13.

The total operating budget is up about $100,000 for a proposed total of $4,971,517. For the most part, the Budget Committee here voted to support the recommendations of the selectmen, disagreeing on only four lines of the budget.

The Budget Committee voted to cut $20,000 from the water and sewer precinct budget. Their justification, according to Selectman Harry Merrow, was that they do not want the water and sewer superintendent using a town vehicle to drive back and forth to work from his home in Northwood. Merrow said that as part of the hiring agreement, Doug Sargent opted out of taking health insurance benefits and, in exchange, the water and sewer commissioners allowed him use of the vehicle. As it turns out, according to Town Administrator Martha Eldridge, after consulting with N.H. Department of Revenue Administration and the town's attorney, the Budget Committee does not have the authority to cut the water and sewer precinct budget. This is something that can only be done at Town Meeting.

In the operating budget, the selectmen recommend an amount for each department with a total bottom line. The Budget Committee can vote to make changes to lines within the budget and then either agree or change the total recommended bottom line. Once the bottom line is voted on at Town Meeting, the selectmen have the authority to move money around within the budget as long as they don't overspend the bottom line. It is the Budget Committee's recommended bottom line that the town meeting voters will vote on.

Within the operating budget, the committee voted to cut $200 from the recreation department budget. They decided they do not agree with the recreation director using tax money to purchase pens and calendars with the Ossipee Recreation Department logo.

Starting Point, a non-profit charged with providing services to victims of domestic violence, asked selectmen for $2,645, which the selectmen recommended. The Budget Committee, citing the value of this program, voted to up that to $3,000.

For the first time in at least 10 years, selectmen asked the budget committee to increase their annual pay. Currently, two selectmen receive $5,000 each while the chairman receives $5,200, and they have asked to increase those amounts to $6,000 and $6,200 for the chairman. Budget committee members argued that the board has reduced their number of meetings from weekly to bi-weekly and therefore are doing less work and do not deserve a raise. Selectmen have argued that what the public does not see is the work the selectmen do outside of regular meetings, including dealing with personnel issues, interviewing for new employees, attending meetings and trainings, and researching town issues.

Beyond the operating budget, the selectmen and Budget Committee voted unanimously in favor of all other articles on the warrant including:

• $350,000 for the repair and maintenance of town roads

• $20,000 to add to the highway department building capital reserve fund for a future expansion of the town's highway garage

• $30,000 to add to the bridge repair and replacement capital reserve fund

• $85,000 for the purchase of a new backhoe

• $34,000 for the purchase of a new pickup truck for the highway department with the money to pay for it being taken from capital reserve fund

• $10,000 for repair and improvement to town recreation facilities

• $63,270 for payment of the water and sewer system bond

• $50,000 to be added to the town property revaluation fund in anticipation of a complete property revaluation to be completed in 2014

• $35,763 to be deducted from the town's surplus to pay for a new police cruiser

• $50,000 to be added to the benefit pay capital reserve account. This fund is used to pay for accrued and unused personal, vacation, and sick time of town employees that retire or resign from town employment

• $9,500 to be added to the Invasive Species fund to pay for the cost of controlling, mainly, milfoil in Ossipee Lake and other water bodies in town

• $3,500 to be added to the town's forest fire department for future purchases of needed equipment

• $30,000 to replace the roof of the main building at the town's transfer station

• $12,000 to replace the computers at the police department

• $400 to add to the town clerk/tax collector computer equipment fund for future purchases

• $7,000 for purchase and installation of new computer software in the town clerk/tax collector's office

• $169,000 for the repairing the abutments and deck of the bridge on Thurley Road

Selectmen now have a plan for the renovation of the town-owned building at One Moultonville Road, commonly referred to as the Freight House. Selectmen plan to use the building to house the town's land use boards, including the planning and zoning boards and the Conservation Commission. The building will also be used as a meeting space and provide, according to selectmen, much-needed storage space for town records. Article 11 asks voters to approve $202,000 for the renovation. To fund the project, selectmen would like to withdraw $84,000 from the trust fund already established, use $50,000 from the town's fund balance, and raise $68,000 from taxation.

The selectmen and budget committee have given their recommendations and voters will have the chance to be heard at town meeting, March 14 at Ossipee Town Hall starting at 6:30 p.m.

Additionally, voting day is March 13 when voters will select their elected officials. Currently, there is a five-way contested race for a three-year selectman's seat and a six-way race for two Budget Committee seats. There will be a Meet the Candidates event at Ossipee Town Hall March 5 at 6:30 p.m.

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