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New Ipswich town budget up 6.6 percent

NEW IPSWICH — The proposed town budget for New Ipswich has been finalized, and voters will get their first glimpse at the figures for the town’s departments during a budget hearing on Jan. 15.

The overall operating budget for the town this year is $2,665,383, a 6.62 percent increase over last year’s budget of $2,500,000.

The biggest budget increase requests come from the Police Department and the Highway Department. The Police Department underwent a change of staff when former Police Chief Garrett Chamberlain resigned earlier in the year, promoting Lt. Tim Carpenter to the position of Police Chief.

The Police Department is requesting $808,999 in funds this year, which is a significant jump from last year’s budget of $681,488 — a 18.7 percent increase. The additional funds would be put towards financing the town’s buyout of Chamberlain’s contract for $175,192, to be paid out in weekly installments over the course of 18 months. It would also accommodate an increase in the base pay for trained police officers, in an attempt to improve the retention rate of officers at the police department.

“The biggest factor is the payout of Chamberlain’s pay and benefits,” said Select Board Chair George Lawrence. “The rest is, in order to build the force back up, an increase in hiring pay.”

Another factor is an increase in health insurance costs for all town employees. The budget reflects the same amount of full-time officers as last year, said Lawrence.

The other department with the most significant increase this year is the Highway Department. The department is requesting $791,059, a 7.26 percent increase over last year’s budget. The additional funds would be mostly to cover the replacement of the town’s 1995 dump truck, Lawrence said. The town has budgeted an additional $37,000 to lease a new dump truck — the remaining increase would be used to cover the increase of health insurance costs, an increase in fuel costs, and additional funds for sand and gravel. There will be no pay increases or additional personnel hired, said Lawrence.

Other areas that have proposed increases are the proposed budget for the town offices and for elections. The town offices budget is projected to increase to $275,025, a 3.15 percent over last year.

Again, health insurance is one of the reasons for the increase said Lawrence, and covers almost the entirety of the $8,400 increase.

The funds budgeted to finance elections dropped more than $3,500, as last year New Ipswich hosted four elections over the course of the year, and this year will only have to support one. However, a $7,990 increase in the budget for the town clerk, to accommodate opening the town offices for limited hours on Friday, and an additional assistant for the town clerk, offset that decrease.

To offset increases, there are other areas in the budget where things have been tightened. The proposed legal budget for the town was dropped 29.41 percent, from $42,500 in 2012 to $30,000 for next year.

Lawrence said the Select Board and Budget Committee made the decision to reduce the budget for legal counsel after only using $11,000 of the $42,000 budget last year.

The proposed budget for government buildings is also down, from $70,069 last year, to $58,644 this year, a 16.31 percent decrease. Most of the decrease is the result of a decision not to heat Building No. 2, the former location of the police station.

The portion of the budget for parks and recreation is proposed to drop 33.95 percent, from 22,154 in 2012 to $14,632. The budget for the town pool is proposed to increase 7.29 percent, with a proposed budget of $27,565.

The Select Board will finalize warrant articles during its upcoming Tuesday meeting. The town will hold a public budget hearing on Jan. 15, at 7 p.m. in the town office conference room.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @AshleySaari.

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