April 11, 2012SANBORNTON — It's been a most agreeable budget season to date for the Sanbornton selectmen and budget committee, both initially agreeing on the $4,379,044 operating budget and an additional $672,052 in special warrant articles, for a total budget of $5,051,095, up only slightly over Fiscal Year 2012's final budget of $4,991,056.
After Budget Committee Chairman Earl Leighton read the budget aloud during a public hearing last Wednesday, the committee set about looking for any other areas in the warrant where further cuts could be made to lower the anticipated tax increase, which, along with the school tax, could be as much as 75 cents to $1 per thousand of assessed property value.
Right away, Leighton identified three areas he felt adjustments could take place, in one line item and two capital outlay items.
Warrant Article 6 asks for $18,500 to perform repair and rehabilitation work on the library cupola. Leighton said he thought that rather than ask taxpayers for the money, those funds could come from the Capital Reserve Fund instead.
"If we take it from there, the work can still get done, and it won't burden the taxpayers," he said.
He also asked if a recommendation to add $100,000 to the Capital Reserve fund for roads and bridges might be changed to $50,000 this year. Committee member Jeff Jenkins disagreed.
"Even if you add $100,000 in there, we're not going to have enough for Turkey Bridge," Jenkins said. "That's going to hit us hard. I defy anyone to walk under that bridge and tell me they'd like to drive over it."
The bridge is currently scheduled for reconstruction in 2016. Leighton took that under advisement.
Another area considered for cuts was an article asking for $5,000 to help in regional efforts for eradication of milfoil in Lake Winnisquam. Leighton said he had talked to officials at Fish and Game, and felt trying to harvest the noxious weed was not the way to protect the lake.
"Fifty years from now, we're still going to have milfoil. We're not going to get rid of it, but if you get rid of its nourishment (from runoff along the shoreline), it will get better, and we've already been doing that," Leighton said.
A warrant request for $60,000 to purchase 4.76 acres of property behind the Old Town Hall brought some discussion from the public, many of whom thought the price for the two adjoining lots was too high. Selectmen David Nickerson and Karen Ober said their board went back and forth with the Bodwell family, which owns the lots, many times about the price. Nickerson said a previous deal with a private party had set the selling price at $90,000, but accessibility and other matters caused that deal to fall through.
"They wanted $90,000 still, but we were able to negotiate it down to $60,000," he said.
While one of the two lots involved is landlocked, together they are completely accessible to the town, which owns land behind the library, Old Town Hall and church. That article remained under recommendation from both selectmen and the budget committee.
Two other articles request approval to utilize funds from the Emergency Medical Service, Fire and Rescue Apparatus and Equipment Fund to purchase medical supplies in the amount of $5,000 for the fire department and an additional $10,000 from the same fund for firefighter protective clothing. The fund is fed each year through insurance billing for emergency services provided by the department.
The fire department will also ask this year to remove $269,000 from the Fire Truck Capital Reserve Fund to replace Engine 2 with a new tanker. Concerned about the amount of money in the fund last May, voters approved the purchase but amended the article to $219,000 for the same purpose. That figure proved futile when the department could not find a tanker at that price. Chief Paul Dexter said there was enough money in the account this year to cover the slightly higher purchase price and felt confident he could find a tanker for the this year's requested amount.
The police department will be asking for $34,000 to purchase and set up a new police cruiser. While the article initially said the money would also help to set up another low profile cruiser for the town, Chief Hankard said that will not be necessary this year as the current low profile vehicle is still sufficient and he will simply be removing a high-mileage duty vehicle from the fleet.
Both the budget committee and selectmen recommended each of those purchases and fund withdrawals.
The budget committee continues to work toward a lower overall budget, and will present their final figures and recommendations at the May Town Meeting, scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. in the Sanbornton Central School gymnasium.