City Council strikes funds for new Opechee Park Clubhouse from budget

LACONIA — After trimming $160,000 in spending — $100,000 of it by stripping funds to rebuild the Opechee Park House — and adding $40,000 in revenues to reduce the projected increase in the tax rate by 10 cents, the City Council last night adopted the 2013-2014 municipal budget. It takes effect July 1.
The budget appropriates $59,727,138, an increase of $497,569 or 0.8-percent. The amount to be raised by property taxes is $35,107,335, an increase of $886,581or 2.6-percent.
Councilor Bob Hamel (Ward 5) set the tone, telling City Manager Scott, Myers "This is a great budget, but I still think the tax rate is too high."
Myers projected the local tax rate to rise 42 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, from $18.41 to $18.83, which together with a decrease of three cents in the state education tax, resulted in a net increase of 39 cents — from $21 to $21.39 — in the total property tax rate.
When the council turned to reducing the budget, Councilors Henry Lipman (Ward 3) and Matt Lahey (Ward 2) raised the $110,000 proposed for reconstructing the Opechee Park House. Lipman referred to a letter Jeff Pattison sent to Myers earlier in the day, reminding him that at its meeting on June 3 the Parks and Recreation Commission, after considering the future of the park house, unanimously recommended exploring the renovation and expansion of the bath house at the park as an alternative to rebuilding the park house. The councilors agreed to cut the appropriation by $100,000, leaving $10,000 for planning and design at the park.
Councilor Brenda Baer (Ward 4) noted that Myers recommended increasing appropriations to independent agencies, including New Beginnings, Child and Family Services, Genesis Behavioral Health and the Boys and Girls Club of the Lakes Region, by some $14,000. Myers explained that in reviewing the funding requests submitted by different agencies he chose to lend priority to those whose services eased pressures and spared costs on municipal departments. Lipman stressed the importance of assisting Genesis, calling it "a subsistence operation dealing with mental health, which is a major problem."
Instead, Lipman suggested cutting $60,000 from the appropriation for employee health insurance. Myers explained that when he budgeted the city had been given a guaranteed maximum rate representing a 7 percent increase, which was reduced to 5.5-percent when the final rates were set. He intended to transfer the projected $60,000 savings to the health insurance stabilization fund at the close of 2014. However, the council chose to strike the appropriation.
Finally, the council endorsed Lipman's suggestion to draw add $40,000 from the undesignated fund balance (rainy day fund) to the $835,000 proposed by Myers to supplement revenues and reduce the amount to be raised by property taxes.
The net effect of these measures is to reduce the projected increase in the municipal tax rate by 10 cents, from $21.39 to $21.29, per $1,000 of assessed value. The projection is based on an estimated total assessed valuation of $1,874,853,703, reflecting a one-percent increase in the value of taxable property.