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Jaffrey’s budget up nearly $600,000

JAFFREY — Voters will have their chance to weigh in Saturday on the town’s proposed $9.4 million operating budget, which is up from last year’s approved operating budget of $8.8 million.

Much of the increase to the 2013 budget, town officials say, is due to debt repayment for the town’s $18 million sewer plant. The debt hit taxpayers for the first time in 2012, and accounted for nearly half of the more than 6 percent increase in the town’s general fund at that time.

But this year, the impact will be even worse, said Budget Committee Chair Norman Langevin on Wednesday. “Last year, we took a small hit,” he said, referring to the $225,000 loan repayment paid for out of the general fund and sewer fund budget. “This year, it will be more like half a million.”

In addition to the sewer debt, Langevin said contributions to the N.H. State Retirement system are up, along with employee insurance and general utility costs.

Town officials learned that it would not receive a $6 million state aid grant towards the construction of its wastewater treatment facility more than two years after it had been approved on that basis at the 2007 Town Meeting, according to Selectmen Don MacIsaac. Jaffrey is currently number 56 out of 100 other New Hampshire towns on the state’s delayed and deferred wastewater state aid grant list. The town’s sewer rate increased this year from $1.59 to $1.69 for every 100 gallons, with a minimum usage charge of $12.75. In 2010, the sewer rate was $1.40 for every 100 gallons, with a minimum usage charge of $12.

On this year’s town warrant, the Select Board is once again calling upon voters to approve funding for the preliminary design of a new town office building at the existing site on Goodnow Street. Town officials are asking for $35,000 to help fund the design study.

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 nixed it, 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.

This March, voters will be asked to approve one-year collective bargaining agreements with two local unions. The agreement between the town and police union calls for a 2.25 percent wage increase in 2013 for the union’s 11 police officers. Twelve members of the public works union will receive a 1 percent wage increase.

The 2.25 percent wage increase agreed upon by the police union will be extended to non-union employees as well. Despite multiple requests for information on how much the raises will cost taxpayers, Interim Town Manager Randy Heglin, Langevin and Select Board members did not answer by press time Wednesday. When asked, Langevin said he did not have the number readily available.

Two warrant articles will ask voters to approve financing plans for the Downtown and Stone Arch Bridge Tax Increment Finance districts. The proposed plan for the Downtown Development District includes $194,916 for improvement costs, with $122,981 in anticipated returns. Improvements to the Stone Arch Bridge Development District are expected to cost $151,551, with $34,813 in anticipated returns.

The Budget Committee will hold a public hearing on Feb. 9 at 9 a.m. at the fire station on Turnpike Road.

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

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