Proposed 2014 town budget up $103,128

JAFFREY — At a Dec. 23 Jaffrey Select Board meeting, Town Manager David Caron presented the board with his proposed town budget for 2014. As of now, the town is looking at a $9,701,995 budget, an $103,128 increase over 2013. This budget calls for a 2.68 percent, or 26 cent, increase in the town tax rate.

But those numbers, said Caron, will likely change. The budget does not include petition warrant articles submitted by town residents, which are due Feb. 4. In 2013, petition warrant articles cost the town an additional $71,121. “I’m sure this will be adjusted,” Caron said at the meeting.

As it stands now, several budget items stand out. The operating budget may see a 0.4 percent increase over 2013 with a $5,815,467 appropriation. One of the proposed changes is the transfer of the Police Department special details line item into a revolving fund, since those expenses are difficult to estimate each year. Other proposals include funding for a conversion from lease to purchase for the town’s IT hardware replacement; paying property revaluation expenses on a yearly basis; a $5,000 Master Plan update to be done annually; covering all force and protective gear costs for the Fire Department; and partial funding for the school district’s Creating Positive Change program.

The 2014 proposed operating budget also includes a decrease in debt service, stemming from a decline in the town’s debt service on the landfill bond and the expiration of other debt.

A two percent cost-of-living adjustment for town employees, totaling $33,873 with benefits, has also been suggested.

Warrant articles included in the budget proposal total $522,810, a $125,185 increase over 2013. The warrant articles include funding for projects, like new firefighting and rescue equipment, the Highway Equipment Capital Reserve and two collective bargaining agreements.

Caron also mentioned the town’s Capital Investment Strategy at the meeting. “The goal is to spend no more than what the town spent in 2013, plus the [state aid grant] money,” he said, in order to stabilize the town’s tax rate over an extended period. At the moment, proposed capital spending totals $1,212,140, which is $1,719 less than the combination of 2013 spending and the 2014 state aid grant.

At the end of the Select Board meeting, the budget proposal was praised for its clarity and cost-efficiency. “This is terrific,” said Select Board Chair Don MacIsaac.

The review process of the proposed 2014 budget will begin today, when the Budget Committee holds its Budget Overview session. The 2014 budget public hearing will be held on Feb. 8 at 9 a.m. at the Jaffrey Fire Department.

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