February 22, 2012RANDOLPH — Selectman Michele Cormier, a CPA, reported to two dozen town residents at Thursday night's budget hearing that her best "guesstimate" is that the town tax rate will increase by 44 cents — a rise of 7.1 percent. Both board chairman Ted Weir and John Turner supplemented her comments and explanations.
The greatest impact on the 2012 tax rate is due to paying some $84,000 in additional debt service costs because of the Randolph Hill Road reconstruction and repaving project plus continuing to make principal and interest payments on the town municipal building (town garage-firehouse) off the Pinkham B Road. The selectmen had presented financial impact charts when these two large projects were overwhelmingly passed at earlier town meetings.
Once the state has signed off on the Hill Road project following an official inspection, the town will receive a $500,000 check from the state DOT, allowing it to repay the loan the town borrowed for the $1.5 million project. The state has already paid $500,000, and town's total cost will be $500,000, plus assuming all future maintenance cost. Previously, the state maintained the road in the summer, and it was a town responsibility in the winter. Over the years, however, the state did less and less summer work, leaving the road in very poor shape.
The selectmen recommend mitigating the impact of higher debt service costs by reducing the amount of money being appropriated into various trust funds, lowering that cost by $60,000 by dropping from $120,000 to $75,000.
The selectmen have received approval for an estimated $98,611 FEMA project, necessitated by Tropical Storm Irene that severely damaged the town-owned Ravine House Pool dam and roadway on the Moose River. FEMA will pay 75 percent and the town's 25 percent required match will be taken from an existing Recreational Trust Fund. A swale, designed to allow for high water overflow, will be included in the project. According to FEMA, a complete fix would have cost as much as $350,000 and the selectmen opted for a make-do fix.
Two or three taxpayers pointed out that it is because of government programs like FEMA that the nation is burdened with debt.
An earlier summer storm also destroyed the Pool raft and required other repairs, all of which cost the town an unexpected $6,745.
The selectmen have decided to no longer employ a lifeguard. The trio reported that town counsel Bernie Waugh has advised that posting that no lifeguard is on duty at any time reduces the town's liability.
A new copier, located in a Town Hall corridor, will be purchased, and the selectmen recommend that $9,000 be spent on a scheduled revaluation under a contract with Avitar Associates of New England, spreading the cost over two years. The legal budget, which also includes surveying costs, remains at a recommended $7,500, because of some landowner actions to reduce property assessments, especially on seasonal camps without heat.
Fuel costs are on the rise, with almost half the nearly $13,000 cost of maintaining general government buildings attributed to fuel.
The cemetery trustees have asked for $1,000 to purchase a machine to stamp metal corner pins in the Randolph Hill Cemetery.
The cost of Gorham Ambulance coverage, based on a three-year average, has increased by $1,600, up from $5,600 in 2011.
The short-rise Town Hall elevator, designed for wheelchairs, needs a new $450 battery.
Roadside mowing is estimated at $5,000, a little less than double the 2011 actual expenditure.
Androscoggin Valley Regional Refuse and Disposal District (AVRRDD) representative Ray Aube, who serves as that board's vice chairman, agreed to have an informational flyer available at the March 13 town meeting, designed to encourage townspeople to increase their participation in the recycling program, thereby reducing landfill tipping costs.