Budget process starts

MANCHESTER - In an all-day budget meeting on Friday, Dec. 14, town officials reviewed their proposed budget for the 2014 fiscal year.

Select board members and town officials are studying a budget document that at the moment contemplates spending for the 2014 fiscal year at $4.74 million compared to last year's $7,6 million. The major difference is the roundabout project is completed, which will bring down total spending.

Due to the changes made to the budget at the meeting on Friday, property tax spending on the General Fund side may increase by $193,000 from $2,309,903 last year to $2,502,903 in fiscal year 2014 - which represents a 9.2 percent increase to the property tax on Manchester residents.

Although the budget as been proposed and reviewed, it has yet to be finalized, according to Manchester's Town Manager, John O'Keefe, who is also strongly looking into lowering property tax spending.

"The property tax is increasing this year almost entirely because we are pulling off of a different funding source than that reserve fund," said O'Keefe. "(We're) reducing the amount of reserve fund we are using by $131,000. That's a lot of money to be pulling back from."

O'Keefe said that the Town has been waiting to stop pulling money from the reserve fund until the economy recovered, however they have seen the reserve fund dwindle while the economy has yet top fully recover.

Among some issues that were discussed in the budget were the new park house building at the Dana L. Thompson Memorial Park. Unlike the previous building, the new park house will be open year round and will have to account for heating costs during the cold winter months. However, because of the efficiency of the new building heating costs will actually decrease from $11,000 last year to $8,500.

"We were able to do radiant floor heat, which is really efficient heating. Also, we were able to install a new, state-of-the-art propane heater for the same price as installing the old heater," said O'Keefe.

The efficiency of the Rec Park has been impressive as far as program revenues go, O'Keefe said. Total program expenses as of Nov. 30 were $28,123. Total revenues from those programs was $33,621. In the past the town has provided roughly 38 percent of the Rec Park's operating cost.

Along with a new community room that will hopefully yield some extra revenue, maintenance on Applejack Field was a topic of discussion. With the field being closed to spring sports next year, the town will pay half the cost to repair the field, which saw significant wear and tear during the fall sports season. The town will pay $8,300 to fix the field and Burr and Burton Academy will pay the other half.

Additionally, the Town is also looking into hiring a full time maintenance employee to clean all of the town buildings. Currently the Town is outsourcing their cleaning services and O'Keefe believes that creating a position will at least break even with the cost and there will be more efficient cleaning.

Health care costs will increase by $55,000, an 11.7 percent change from last year. This keeps par with the 11.7 percent health insurance rate increase.

This year the budget will see a major decrease in capital spending, which last year included the roundabout project and the new park house building, and will see most of the expenses as operational expenditures, said O'Keefe.

The next budget review meeting will take place in early January. Typically, the select board aims to approve the budget it will submit to voters at March town meeting towards the end the month.


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