Voters to discuss $12.4 M budget

Deliberative Session review of warrant articles to be held Tuesday at Town House

PETERBOROUGH — Voters will have their next opportunity to offer feedback on the town budget and seven other proposed warrant articles at the town’s Deliberative Session on Tuesday, the first step in the town’s three-part Town Meeting process.

At the Deliberative Session, voters can discuss and amend the warrant articles prior to placing them on the ballot. The actual vote on whether to approve them will take place on May 14 at the polls.

The proposed fiscal year 2015 gross operating budget to be discussed comes in at $12.4 million. That’s a 4 percent increase over the amount appropriated for the 2014 fiscal year. After expected revenues are deducted, the budget proposal is likely to require about $5.8 million to be raised through taxation, an increase of about 2.5 percent.

Town Administrator Pam Brenner said operating expenditures have been kept as flat as possible. Health insurance costs will rise by about 7 percent, but there is no increase in retirement costs and no new full-time or part-time staff have been added. Diesel fuel is budgeted for 10 cents per gallon less than last year and heating fuel costs are flat.

Brenner said sewer rates will remain flat next year, after the town finally started receiving a 30 percent matching grant from the state that had been promised when the town built its new wastewater treatment plant.

The town expects to generate more than $900,000 this year from car registrations, according to Brenner. The town’s ambulance transfer program has also done well and is budgeted for more nearly $600,000 in revenue. As a result, the amount to be raised in taxes to support the ambulance service is expected to drop from $50,422 to $39,488.

One of the warrant articles voters will review calls for $100,000 to establish a Fire Department Fleet Management Capital Reserve Fund. This would be a new fund, used to start saving money toward eventual major purchases by the Fire Department.

“We’re looking at trucks that can run $500,000 to $700,000,” Brenner said on Tuesday. “This will let us have money sitting in the bank when we need it.”

Another warrant article asks for $17,500 for a capital reserve fund for financial management software and hardware. The amount was reduced from a higher number during the budget hearing process and the money will come from utility fees. It’s intended to continue upgrades of the town’s tax software and server.

Town officials are also asking for $15,000 to go into the Geographic Information System Capital Reserve Fund, which is used for updating the town’s mapping system. No money has gone into the fund for the past three years, Brenner said, and the maps, which show everything from roads and houses to shoreland protected areas, wetlands and other geographic features, are valuable tools both for residents and town officials and boards.

Other warrant articles call for $55,000 for existing capital reserve funds for the Recreation and Highway departments, to be used to replace equipment and vehicles; $6,000 for the Cemetery Expendable Trust, to be funded by sales of burial lots; and discontinuing several unused capital reserve funds.

Voters will also have the opportunity to discuss a petition article calling for the State Legislature and Congressional delegation to support a Constitutional amendment that would overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision regarding political spending by corporations.

At the Deliberative Session, voters will not be discussing four other articles that appear on the warrant — a $700,000 request for construction of a new well and pump house on Summer Street, which would be paid off by Water Department revenues; a $240,000 request for a replacement ambulance for the Fire and Rescue Department; an call for $80,000 for a technical assessment of the possibility of building a parking lot behind the GAR Hall, which would be offset by revenue from the Greater Downtown Tax Increment Fund; and whether to establish a GAR Hall Expendable Trust Fund to hold the proceeds from the sale of the GAR Hall, which are to be used to improve parks and recreation facilities. Those four articles will be discussed and voted on at the open session of Town Meeting on May 14.

The Deliberative Session will start at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, in the Town House.

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