By Michael Kitch
THE LACONIA DAILY SUN
MEREDITH — After a public hearing, the Board of Selectmen voted unanimously last night to recommend a budget for 2016 of $14,168,843, which represents an increase in expenditures of $119,807 or 0.8 percent, to voters at Town Meeting on March 9.
With revenues from sources other than property taxes projected to shrink, the budget maintains current levels of service, representing a continued reduction in services from 2008, to which the total amount raised by property taxes is benchmarked.
The budget includes a 2 percent wage adjustment and merit raise for qualified employees. There are appropriations for the purchase of vehicles and equipment, including $250,000 for a tub grinder for the solid waste facility, as well as additions to expendable trust funds for replacing vehicles and equipment for the Department of Public Works and Fire Department.
Revenues from sources other than property taxes are projected to decline by $483,513, or 9.3 percent, from $5,211,813 in 2015 to $4,728,300 in 2016, leaving $8,951.293 to be raised by property taxes. With no change in the total assessed valuation of $1,749,719,547, the town portion of tax rate is projected to rise by 28 cents, from $4.81 to $5.09 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, an increase of 5.8 percent.
Marc Abear said that “the economy is not growing at 5.8 percent, Social Security is not growing at 5.8 percent and the incomes of residents are not growing at 5.8 percent” and said it was hard to understand how to square a constant level of service with a 5.8 increase in the budget. Warning of “an ever increasing spiral,” he asked, “How do we match the income of the community with the needs of the town?”
Selectman Ray Moritz explained that the 5.8 percent applies to the town tax rate and that recommended increase in the budget is less than 1 percent, which he described as “negligible.”
Three file for re-election
The composition of the Board of Selectmen is unlikely to change with the election next. Incumbents Nate Torr, Jonathan James and Mike Pelczar were the only candidates to file for the three open seats and appear to be returning without opposition.
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