March 10, 2011

Officials boxed in by state budget

Union Leader Corresponent
LONDONDERRY -- Several weeks after Gov. John Lynch unveiled the state’s proposed budget, Londonderry officials are still at loss over how to tackle the coming year’s town budget.
On Feb. 15, Lynch revealed his $10.7 billion budget plan, which includes millions of dollars worth of cuts, including a reduction in state reimbursements for teacher, police and firefighter retirements from 35 percent to zero.
“We’re in a situation similar to two years ago, when the governor’s lastminute cuts resulted in less than optimal economic times,” Town Manager David Caron said during the Monday’s Town Council meeting. “If the governor’s proposal is adopted, then we would receive essentially no state retirement contributions.”
Though it’s still too early to tell, the town could be forced to come up with
 an additional $468,000 to cover those retirement contributions next year, Caron said, though town officials won’t know for sure for another 60 days, when the final outcome of the state budget is revealed. 

With that in mind, Caron said the town has three options to consider: requesting an amendment to the town’s proposed $25,727,911 operating budget during this Saturday’s town meeting; having an additional special town meeting to consider alternative funding; or considering the transfer of existing funds within the existing budget. 
As it stands now, the proposed town operating budget would require the town to raise $14,865,919 in property taxes next year, resulting in a tax rate impact of $4.48 in fiscal year 2012. 
Caron suggested town officials begin discussing the potential implications of Lynch’s budget during the March 12 town meeting. “We could broach the issue and get a dialogue started,” he said. 
Several town councilors said they weren’t in favor of requesting additional funds on the town meeting floor. 
“Whether it’s an unfunded mandate, whether it’s the state government offsetting cost — I think there’s some merit to that,” said Councilor Mike Brown. “It’s the contracts that are negotiated on a local level that really determine the ultimate costs of the taxpayers’ bearing. The local folks need to take a long hard look at how they’re doing business with regards to retirement costs.” 
“I like the bottom line budget we have,” Brown continued. “Regardless of what the government has proposed, I am not inclined in the least to change our bottom line budget heading into town meeting. In other words, I think it is time to finally live within our means, and whatever the budget ends up being, we should deal with it, find the money locally and work with that going forward.” 
Council Chairman Paul Di-Marco agreed. 
“I don’t think we can take any action this weekend anyway. We should be getting to the point where we spend money on what we spend on and try to depend less on other forms of government giving us money,” he said. 
Councilor John Farrell added that any attempts to address budgetary changes before they become final might be futile. 
“I think we need to see what the legislative body does and act accordingly. And, yes, we need to live within our means,” he said. 
Councilor Tom Dolan said he took issue with behavior of the state, from a fiscal management standpoint. “Our budget is done, the school’s budget is done, now the state is giving us hints there could be major changes we can’t react to,” he said. “We know how to cut costs, but it’s another issue when you make somebody else pay.” 
The Town Council will address the topic further during an upcoming meeting, when the two newly elected councilors are present, along with several local legislators. 

No comments:

Post a Comment