By CHELSEY POLLOCK
Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY -- Charged with holding the line on their own municipal budget, Derry town councilors have criticized a Rockingham County budget proposal that calls for a 4 percent increase next year. The budget is still in its draft stage and will likely be finalized by the Rockingham County Delegation on Feb. 22, said county finance officer Theresa Young.
An outline of an initial $76.6 million proposal, representing a 6 percent increase over the current year, was distributed to municipalities last month. Young said commissioners have since made more reductions, bringing that increase down to 4 percent.
But Derry town Councilor Kevin Coyle asked the council last week to send a letter to the county commissioners admonishing the increases.Town Administrator John Anderson was charged with drafting the letter after the proposal found a council consensus.
“We live within our means and it’s unfortunate that the county thinks they can afford a 4 or 6 percent increase,” said Coyle in an interview last week. “It’s inappropriate in this economy.If any of our local departments came to us asking for a 6 percent increase, we’d be laughing.”
But Young said the county commissioners have already cut more than $900,000 from the budget, with position reductions and new requirements for employee contributions to dental and short-term disability insurance.
“They really have made some huge changes,” she said.
Health insurance costs are expected to increase by 10 percent next year, Young said, costing the county an estimated $290,000 more for about 300 employees.
And the county is also preparing for the loss of $1.8 million in federal stimulus funding, which will be eliminated by fiscal year 2012, Young said. The funds will begin to taper off through 2011, she said.
Young said the current budget proposal calls for a larger increase to the capital fund than in years past, with a $723,000 contribution instead of the standard $500,000. But she said that increase is largely offset by the expiration of a bond that previously required a $665,000 payment in 2010.
The current proposal calls for $704,500 in capital improvements for 2011, including a $104,000 update to the Rockingham County Nursing Home’s heating and refrigeration systems, a $95,500 improvement to the nursing home’s security setup and $210,000 for roof repairs at the county jail and sheriff’s department.
And while commending new cuts to the county budget, Derry Councilor David Milz said it’s still not enough.
“Four percent is better than 6 percent at this point in time, but I would hope they would be able to get it down to about 2 percent,” said Councilor David Milz. “All the towns are striving to hold it down to zero percent, realizing that we’ve all got contractual raises we can’t do anything about.”
Councilor Brian Chirichiello, a recently elected state representative, said he thought sending a letter was too rash without further study of the county budget.
As a state Representative, Chirichiello said he sat for the first time this year on a committee to review the county attorney’s budget.
“I felt it was a little big arrogant to say we’re going to send (the county) a letter that we’re not happy,” Chirichiello said last week. “I don’t want to chastise them and say that just because we’re flat-lining that we expect that everybody else can do the same.”
In 2010, county taxes accounted for $1.08 on Derry’s property tax rate of $28.48 per thousand of assessed valuation. The town services made up $9.39 of the rate, and the school accounted for $14.85. The state education component was $2.59.