January 4, 2011


Union Leader Correspondent
LONDONDERRY -- Residents and town officials flooded Town Hall on Monday night, many airing their concerns over strategies town officials have suggested for maintaining level funding this coming fiscal year.
The Town Council and budget committee gathered on Monday night for an initial public hearing on the proposed $25,697,875 operating budget.
At the start of the hearing, Councilor Tom Dolan urged residents to “enter a period of listening.”
“I have heard a wide spectrum of opinions,
 that we’ve cut too much or not enough,” Dolan said. “There have been many strong emotions. One resident felt we have placed savings over safety.” 

Dolan further noted anonymous senders posted the most negative comments online. 
“There’s a lot of emotion related to this budget. A lot of work went into getting us to this point and it wasn’t easy to do, so the work done by town staff is commendable,” Councilor Paul DiMarco added. 
Councilor Mike Brown stressed the cuts were proposed after the council was asked by residents to strive for a level budget. 
In the process of doing so, the council and Caron previously proposed including all of the district’s school resource officers and school crossing guards among next year’s cuts during the original budget presentation on Nov. 15. 
“But so many residents had directed us to place crossing guards and school resource officers back into the budget,” Brown emphasized. “There are people in this community who believe those two things aren’t in the budget, but they now are.” 
As it stands now, the middle and high school’s school resource officer would remain, though the position held at the elementary schools could still be fair game. 
Many residents stood up to comment during the lengthy hearing. 
Resident Dan Bouchard, who said he’s considering pursuing a citizen’s petition on the topic, urged the council to reconsider the proposed reduction of the elementary school’s resource officer. 
“These officers are needed, not just at the high school,” he emphasized. 
Bouchard further implored residents and town officials to consider bringing a warrant article forward to let residents decide where the cuts should be taken. 
In order to be validated, a citizen’s petition must contain the signatures of at least 25 registered Londonderry voters and be submitted by Feb. 1. 
“I know how valuable this position is and how much it saves the community in the long run,” Bouchard noted. 
Resident Richard Bielinski spoke against a proposal to incorporate cable access reserve funds into the town budget’s funding sources. 
“The (cable studio reserve fund) is a self-funding entity, so why money is being taken from there is beyond me,” Bielinski said. “It’s not taxpayers’ money. Why are people who have cable supplementing the budget? If these funds go away, what are you going to fund the cable studio with?” 
Town Manager David Caron noted there are no legal restrictions dictating what a municipality uses its reserve funds for. Bouchard urged town officials to “ask themselves how people are really doing in this community,” as he noted the high number of foreclosures and struggling residents in his town. 
Rep. Al Baldasaro (R-Londonderry) agreed. 
“If you take a look at residents in town, a lot of retirees haven’t gotten any cost-of-living raises this year. Maybe we wont have to lay off anyone if we did a pay freeze,” he suggested. 
Councilor Sean O’Keefe noted that the council had previously approached the town’s collective bargaining units, asking them to consider a one-year pay freeze. The unanimous answer was “no.” 
DiMarco noted, however, that even if all the town’s collective bargaining units had accepted a pay freeze, it wouldn’t have solved the Londonderry’s financial struggles. 
Caron said a total of $1.3 million was needed in decreases, and after such a pay freeze, around $800,000 in budget cuts would still have been necessary. 
Resident Mary Soares spoke against a proposal to cut one planning department secretary position, urging town officials to consider restoring the position to the coming year’s budget. 
“Without the support of our planning secretaries, we will see a change in roles the town doesn’t expect or want” Soares said. “To expect that two secretaries could absorb what a third could be doing is ignorance of the unique responsibilities and talents each secretary holds. This is not the time to be cutting staff from this department.” 
Londonderry’s final public hearing on the budget is set for Thursday, Feb. 3. At that time, the public will also have the opportunity to offer input on any citizens’ petitions received by the Feb. 1 deadline. 
A bond hearing is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 17. Town Meeting will take place on March 12. 

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