Published DateMEREDITH — The Board of Selectmen will present its 2013 budget at a public hearing on Monday, January 28, beginning at 5:30 p.m. at the Community Center.
Although the budget includes the steepest increase increase in spending since the onset of the recession four years ago, the increase in the amount to be raised by taxes to 2.5-percent.
Total appropriations of $13,627,633 are $892,315, or seven-percent, more than the $12,735,318 approved in 2012. Projected revenues from sources other than property taxes remain flat at $4,471,410.
However, by drawing $1,475,000 from the undesignated fund balance (rainy day fund) — $725,000 to supplement revenues and $750,000 to fund capital projects — the tax commitment is projected to rise only from $7,792,737 in 2012 to $7,986,504 2013, an increase of $193,767.
The increase in the tax commitment is projected to add nine cents to the town portion of tax rate, which would rises from $4.21 to $4.30. Since the town is currently assessed at 110-percent of market value, 2013 tax bills will reflect an adjustment to the assessed valuation.
The budget features approximately $1.7-million in funding for capital expenditures that were deferred during the past four years of austere budgeting. These include two police cruisers, a command vehicle for the Fire Department, upgraded information technology and $500,000 for road improvements. Almost $200,000 is allotted to expendable trust funds earmarked for future capital expenses while other funds will be applied to projects recommended by the Capital Improvements Program (CIP) Committee and to retiring existing debt.
The budget also includes a step increase of 1.25 percent and a two-percent salary adjustment for all eligible employees.
The change of course in 2013 marks the end of four years of austere budgeting. Taking 2008, when $7.7 million was raised in property taxes, as a benchmark, the selectmen have budgeted to forestall increases in the amount to be raised by property taxes since 2009. The tax commitment decreased slightly in 2009, 2010 and 2011 before climbing 1.2 percent to $7.8 million in 2012.
Meanwhile, the undesignated fund balance has been used to stabilize the tax commitment. But, by closely controlling and deferring expenditures, each year the town closed the books with an unexpended surplus with which to replenish the fund balance. Between 2009 and 2012, $3,011,077 of fund balance was applied against the tax commitment, which was slightly less that the $3,073,686 in unexpended surpluses that accrued during the same period.
The fund balance stood at $3,592,665 at the close of 2012. Less the $1,475,000 included in the 2013 budget, the fund balance of $2,117,665 represents 7.4 percent of the projected gross appropriation of $28.6-million, which includes the town and school district appropriations as well as the county assessment, and 15.5 percent of the town appropriation.