July 31, 2009
Town, school meet with Budget Committee


GOFFSTOWN - Stakeholders in the town and school budgets met with the Budget Committee last week to discuss what changes could be made to the process, in a year when money is expected to be tighter than usual due to the struggling economy.

“We’ve never gotten together in this fashion, just to dialogue,” Dan Cloutier, the chairman, said after the meeting. 

The meeting saw the budget committee and the town government, school district and town department heads confronting the tensions between the two sides that arise every budget season.

“There is a natural tension,” Cloutier said.

The many groups involved expressed a desire to establish trust with one another to make the process – in which town departments and the school district come up with budgets that are presented to the committee – less hostile.

Several members of the board said it would be unwise to raise taxes.

“I can say that the tax rate continues to go up, and it has continued to go up forever,” Dick Fletcher said. “Stop and think about the taxpayer.”

But Goffstown will not get $232,000 it expected to receive from the state government, there has been poor interest income on the town’s money, said Janice O’Connell, the town’s finance director, assistant town administrator and treasurer.

The town did raise $600,000 it could not encumber or expend last year by accident, Scott Gross, chairman of the Board of Selectman, said, and it was put in the general fund. That could be accessed to offset a tax increase.

But town administrator Sue Desruisseaux said members of the town government “are not magicians” and that decreased income for the town will mean increased taxes.

“It’s going to result in a higher tax rate,” she said. “I don’t know how else to say it. It’s not good news.”

The conversation also focused on the services provided to the town.

“All of these things that people want come with a price tag,” Sue Trembly, the school board’s representative on the committee, said. “Sometimes, like now, that price tag is more bitter.”

Scott Gross agreed, pointing out curbside recycling as an example of a service offered in Goffstown that is not offered in many other towns. The town’s strict rules for business and economic development discourage business from coming to town to broaden the tax base, he added, saying that the town seemed to want to keep its pricey services without changing that.

“We’ve collectively made our bed. Now we have to sleep in it,” he said.

Department heads from the police, fire and public works department, as well as the library and school district, argued that they must provide expected services that can be expensive.

“We’re all users of services. We’re all taxpayers,” Dorine Olson, a committee member, said. If the town can no longer afford those important services, difficult decisions will have to be made by the taxpayers, she added.

Christi Garrison, suggested a “wait-and-see” approach for the year, to avoid tax hikes, because of the difficult economy, suggesting that departments should ask for only the very basics of what they need.

Every few years tax rates about double, Ivan Beliveau, another member, said.

“We can’t sustain what’s unsustainable,” he said.
“I think they want it done and want us out of their hair,” he said.



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