January 18, 2008
Budget Committee makes recommendations
At recent public hearings, the Budget Committee presented its proposed town and school operating budgets and other warrant articles to be discussed at the upcoming February deliberative sessions of Town Meeting.
The Jan. 9 public hearing for the town budget was sparsely attended by a few members of the public and heard only a couple of comments. Police Chief Michael French spoke about his department’s request for three patrol officers and cited studies advising Goffstown to have a higher number of sworn officers.
The Budget Committee cut about $70,000 from the operating budget that had been proposed by the Board of Selectmen, ending up with $18,653,734 or 1.8 percent over the default level.
Committee Chairman Dan Cloutier said there weren’t that many large or controversial items in this year’s budget.
“I think the selectmen sent a budget that already handled those things,” he said. “They started from a different number than previous boards,” Cloutier explained. “They started with the default and worked their way up. There weren’t a lot of controversial additions to look at.”
Some of the cuts included phasing in the purchase of a tracking program for the Department of Public Works over two years instead of one, which dropped $23,000 from this year’s budget, and reducing the Fire Department budget by about $50,000.
Several of the warrant articles to be introduced at the Feb. 2 deliberative session affect the Fire Department, including a new contract with the International Association of Firefighters, the first since the old contract expired in December 2005. The firefighters have been frozen at the same levels and pay grade since the old contract expired, said Lt. Bill Connor, union president.
The article for 2008 would raise $73,078 for salary and benefits adjustments but would reduce the operating budget by $35,640.
Selectmen Chairman John Caprio explained the new contract would allow for scheduling to cover seven days a week instead of five days a week with overtime on the weekends. The $35,640 reduction represents the savings in overtime, should the contract be approved by voters.
Connor said there had been a number of other housekeeping issues in cleaning up the contract language.
“It’s a good feeling,” he said, of having the new contract. “Both sides have put a lot of work into the contract over the last several years.”
Another possible warrant article also asks for $34,324 for the first year of a five-year Homeland Security grant to fund two new firefighter positions. If awarded, the grant would eventually pay over $100,000 per firefighter, according to Fire Chief Richard O’Brien.
An article for a $2.5 million dollar bond to install water in the Lynchville/Danis park area will be introduced again, despite narrowly failing to achieve the 60 percent majority vote needed last year. The bond would not affect tax rates because the cost would be paid by grants or the 235 affected households.
The Budget Committee also presented an article for $2 million for land acquisition and conservation easements.
Reproduced by the Goffstown