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Sewer debt blamed for spike in Jaffrey’s budget

  • Jaffrey's Budget Committee held a public hearing on the proposed 2013 operating budget and warrant articles Sunday.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Jaffrey's Budget Committee held a public hearing on the proposed 2013 operating budget and warrant articles Sunday.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Jaffrey's Budget Committee held a public hearing on the proposed 2013 operating budget and warrant articles Sunday.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

JAFFREY — Friday and Saturday’s Nor’easter led to the postponement of Jaffrey’s budget hearing, which was originally scheduled for Saturday morning. About 25 people total attended the hearing, which town officials rescheduled for Sunday.

Debt repayment for the town’s $18 million sewer plant is up $379,000 this year over last year and accounts for the most significant increase in the proposed 2013 operating budget, according to town officials.

The town’s 2013 loan repayment for construction of its new wastewater treatment facility is $604,000, Interim Town Manager Randy Heglin told voters at the hearing, which was held at the Jaffrey Fire Station. That payment amount will be constant over the 20-year life of the loan, Heglin said.

While the town had anticipated that its sewer fund budget would be more than $2 million this year, Langevin said Heglin worked until the last minute with the loan provider and N.H. Department of Environmental Services to find ways to lessen the financial impact. Nonetheless, the 2013 sewer fund budget is $1,877,610, a 22 percent increase over last year.

If the state had not deferred on its promise of a $6 million grant towards the construction of Jaffrey’s wastewater treatment facility, town officials said the sewer debt would be far less. Jaffrey is currently number 56 out of 100 other New Hampshire towns on the state’s delayed and deferred wastewater state aid grant list.

Sunday afternoon, Jaffrey’s Budget Committee approved an operating budget of $9,201,242, which is up $348,642 over last year’s budget of $8,852,600. In addition to the sewer debt, Langevin said contributions to the N.H. State Retirement system are up, along with employee insurance rates and general utility and fuel costs.

The town reached one-year collective bargaining agreements in December with two local unions: police and public works. The contract between the town and police union calls for a 2.25 percent wage increase in 2013 for the union’s 11 police officers. That same wage adjustment will be extended to non-union employees, as well.

The pay increases for police officers will cost the town $13,302, but it is still unclear how much taxpayers will pay for cost-of-living adjustments for non-union employees, according to town officials.Heglin said a 2 percent increase in this year’s Social Security tax, in addition to rising contributions to the State Retirement System and health care premiums, means employees will actually take home less this year than in 2012, despite the raises. “For the average employee, it is estimated that their take home pay will be $200 to $300 less for 2013 than what the employee took home in 2012,” he said.

In addition to the contract with the police union, voters will be asked to approve $5,600 in raises for public works employees in a warrant article on the March ballot. Twelve members of the public works union will receive a 1 percent wage increase; the 2013 contract also establishes a sick-leave bank to benefit DPW employees who find themselves facing periods of prolonged illness or injury.

The Select Board is once again calling upon voters to approve funding for the preliminary design of a new town office building. Town officials are asking for $35,000 to help fund the design study, which will assess the feasibility of building at the existing site on Goodnow Street.

Town officials brought forward a warrant article in 2011 to raise and appropriate up to $3.1 million for a new community center and town office complex; it failed 254 to 64. At the 2012 Town Meeting, voters approved an appropriation of $50,000 for an architectural and design study for a new town office building, but the state’s Department of Revenue Administration disapproved the article, saying the amendment made at Town Meeting had changed the purpose of the article. The Select Board had made an amendment to reduce a $200,000 warrant article, intended for upgrades to the Jaffrey Public Library’s heating system and the relocation of town offices to the library, to $50,000 for an architectural and design study for a new town office building at the existing site.

Selectman Don MacIsaac said Sunday that if voters approve $35,000 for a design study this year, the Select Board will bring forward architectural drawings and a cost estimate in 2014. Ideally, he said, construction could begin in 2015.

Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 228 or adandrea@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @alyssadandrea.

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