LACONIA — Increased investment in city streets and maintaining four additional firefighter positions are the major features of the 2015-16 city budget that City Manger Scott Myers presented to the City Council last night.
Myers proposed city expenditures of $22,860,061 -- an increase of $8,446 over the current year. However, revenues from sources other than property taxes, including the use of fund balance, are projected to drop by $537,702, or 7.1 percent. A one-time credit from the Concord Regional Solid Waste/Resource Recovery Cooperative of $800,000 represents most of the decrease. But it is partially offset by increases in fees from licensing and permitting, especially motor vehicle registration.
Myers explained that the $800,000 credit received last year was not spent and recommended applying $600,000 of the amount to street repairs in 2015-16, increasing the total appropriation for road work to $1.75 million. He said that he will suggest the remaining $200,000 be carried forward to 2016-17, when again between $1.7 million and $1.8 million would be appropriated for street repairs.
Apart from street repairs, other capital outlays include $25,000 for repair and construction of sidewalks, $40,000 for repair and replacement of guardrails and fences, $100,000 for drainage improvements, $30,000 for bridge repair and maintenance, $28,000 install irrigation at Memorial Field, and $155,000 for portable radios for the Fire Department. Myers also recommends borrowing $300,000 to fund the restoration of Weirs Beach.
Myers said that his proposed budget includes $50,000 in general fund expenditure, which together with funding from LRGH and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grants from the federal government ,will enable the Fire Department to retain the four firefighters originally hired for two years with federal funding. The budget also includes 50 percent of the funding for an additional police officer and third motor mechanic, which are two positions that were partially funded in the 2014-15 budget.
The budget includes wage adjustments reflecting increases in steps and cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) with all four collective bargaining units representing city employees, three of which have ratified contracts. Negotiations with the State Employees Association (SEA), representing employees at the Department of Public Works, remain ongoing.
Myers said that the city has received a "not to exceed" rate increase of 3.4 percent for employee health insurance. He said that the city spent $3,085,212 for health insurance in 2011-12, but has budgeted $2,270,211 in 2015-16, a decrease of $814,946 over the past four years. Meanwhile, he anticipates the city's contribution to the New Hampshire Retirement System to rise by approximately $200,000 on July 1.
With the decline in revenue from sources other than property taxes, the amount to be raised by property taxes is projected to rise by $546,148, from $15,255,299 to $15, 801,447, a jump of 3.6 percent. The increase is reflected in an increase the city portion of the tax rate of 16 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, from $8.73 to $8.89.
The School District budget is expected to increase by $1,712,800, from $30,894,058 to $32,606,858 -- or by 5.5 percent -- which represents a 35 cent increase in the school tax rate, from $9.67 to $10.02. The county tax rate is projected to drop a penny to $1.41 and the state education property tax rate by 14 cents to $2.44. Altogether, the municipal tax rate is estimated to rise by 36 cents from $22.40 to $22.76.
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