Sharon

Budget hike largely tied to fire contract

SHARON — Voters will be asked to approve a 2014 budget of $346,190 at Town Meeting in March, after the Select Board recommended the budget following a public hearing on Tuesday.

Town Administrator Chet Bowles said Wednesday that the meeting drew about 20 people, one of the largest turnouts he could recall.

The budget proposal is a 2.3 percent increase over the 2013 budget, largely due to a 14 percent hike in the fire budget, which went from $46,030 to $52,573. Sharon contracts with the town of Peterborough for fire, police, recycling and ambulance service, and the fire increase, Bowles said, is because Peterborough will be paying for new fire equipment.

Bowles said a resident had questioned the formulas used to calculate Sharon’s payments to Peterborough, which had prompted a response from Peterborough Town Administrator Pam Brenner. In an email that Bowles read aloud at the meeting, Brenner wrote that Peterborough has provided an analysis every year regarding how the charges are calculated.

“Please understand that we are offering Sharon a service, one which Sharon has the choice of accepting or not accepting,” Brenner wrote. “Our responsibility is to determine what amount we need to provide you with that service, and to do it in a fiscally responsible and cost effective way just as any vendor would. ... The costs of the services as arrived at through the annual analysis are not negotiable.”

Brenner noted that the cost of services provided by Peterborough seems to be “a perennial area of dispute” and said in the future Peterborough will provide Sharon with a lump sum annual fee for each service and a contract by Jan. 15 each year, just as any other vendor would. “The town of Sharon can then decide whether or not to contract with us for those services,” she wrote.

Bowles said town officials had briefly discussed with Jaffrey officials the possibility of shifting police services to Jaffrey, but it wasn’t feasible for either town.

Bowles said that although the budget is up slightly, this year’s warrant articles call for less money, so the amount to be raised by taxation if all articles pass is about $13,000 less than last year.

The budget includes $1,785 to pay for current cardholders at the Peterborough Town Library through the end of March. A warrant article will ask for $7,920, as a per capita payment to Peterborough for library services, which would entitle all Sharon residents to a Peterborough library card.

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