Meredith spending would rise 3.2% in 2014 under plan drafted by town manager

MEREDITH — Town Manager Phil Warren outlined his proposed budget for 2014 to the Board of Selectmen at a workshop yesterday. He recommended increasing municipal expenditures by $430,186, or 3.2 percent, from $13,627,664 to $14,057,850.

Warren began by recalling the parameters set by the selectmen in September when they agreed that current service levels, themselves reduced from prior years, should be maintained without introducing new programs or services. Likewise, no new positions should be created and no job reclassifications should be approved while vacancies would be evaluated as they occur rather than automatically filled. The Capital Improvement Program (CIP) should continue to be funded, with consideration to deferred expenditures for replacing equipment and improving roads as well as to reconstructing the Public Works facility. Finally, the Selectboard agreed to weigh step raises and salary adjustments for employees once the budget is complete in January.

Warren said that he was recommending increases of $218,406 in the town operating budget and $106,000 in the water and sewer operating budget. The CIP budget of $1,792,000 would include $277,312 for new projects, $475,000 for expendable trust funds and the balance in debt service. Expendable trust funds of $200,000 for the Fire Department and $275,000 for the Public Works Department would be applied to purchases of a rescue vehicle and equipment replacement. An appropriation of $177,000 would be applied to exterior renovations at the library.

The town budget includes an appropriation for the Lakes Region Mutual Fire Aid Association budget, which was stricken from the county budget and will now be billed directly to member municipalities. The budgets of the police, fire and parks and recreation departments were increased to meet the cost of operating facilities and replacing equipment.

Warren said that workers compensation costs are expected to rise 7 percent and health insurance premiums by an equal amount, which he described as "very competitive in this market."

Warren told the selectmen he projects $397,000 will be added to the undesignated fund balance at year, bringing the total to $2.5 million. This year $1,475,000 was drawn from the fund balance of $3.6-million, of which $750,000 was spent on capital projects and $725,000 was added to revenues to offset to reduce the amount raised by property taxes. Warren anticipated that less could be withdrawn to offset property taxes in 2014 than in past years.

The selectmen will hold work sessions on the budget on December 9, 10 and 11, beginning at 4 p.m. in the Town Hall Annex.