New Ipswich: Budget Committee demands change

  • The New Ipswich Budget Committee held a public meeting on Monday, Jan. 16, 2017. (Brandon Latham / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Brandon Latham—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript...

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 1/19/2017 6:52:30 AM

The Budget Committee made its final votes before the New Ipswich deliberative session at a meeting on Monday, Jan. 16, where it defended its proposal.

Cuts to the recreation and fire department’s budgets were particularly frictional, and forced Chair Brian Somero to reflect on the role of a budget committee.

“With all the requirements of the state and whatever other higher-ups, will we get to a point where we don’t need a fire department budget and it’ll just come down from someone else in Concord?” he asked, rhetorically, to Chief Meredith Lund. “It makes me wonder why the people voted in a budget committee.”

After debate and discussion, the committee voted to give the fire department all that it needs, with a $4,447 bump for a new volunteer coming midyear.

Lund was asking for funding to buy new safety equipment because the current gear does not meet regulatory standards. She also has filed a warrant article to help pay for a new pumping engine and exhaust pollution control equipment. What motivated her to speak up was a $2,075 reduction to the department’s volunteer stipend line to 95 percent of what she recommended.

“It’s a budget number,” Wendy Juchnevics-Freeman, a member of the Budget Committee, said. “It’s literally impossible for 100 percent of the folks to get 100 percent of the stipend.”

She said the leadership should be able to control the message of the budget, but Lund said it speaks for itself.

“I don’t want to say we have a 95 percent fire department, we have a 100 percent fire department,” she said. “I think we need to be more positive and try to get everyone up to 100 percent.”

Firefighters are paid using a formula with the percentage of meetings and training sessions, and emergency calls they attend. The process has been in place since 2009.

Lund said the surplus, when firefighters do not earn 100 percent of their stipends, can be reallocated or awarded to volunteers who do more than the required work.

“If you look at the size of New Ipswich, on a budget of [$120,271], and the services we get, and we’re arguing over $2,075, that’s embarrassing to me,” David Lage, a selectmen and liaison to the Budget Committee, said.

That issue was resolved with the increase, but it opened discussion about other changes the committee made in comparison to the selectmen’s recommended budget and department heads’ desired budgets – like the recreation department’s Mindy Buxton who wanted money she thinks she needs for a handicapped outhouse, but had the budget shrunk in the selectmen’s recommendation.

“It is an embarrassment the way the Budget Committee and Board of Selectmen have not worked together for the last four months,” Juchnevics-Freeman said. “I want things to change; I demand that things change.”

New Ipswich residents will have 23 warrant articles to vote for or against. Of those, 13 are to raise and appropriate funds in addition to the budget. Nine are recommended by both the Board of Selectmen and Budget Committee, three only by the Board of Selectmen, and one only by the Budget Committee. Last year, every warrant passed.

By statute, the sum of the approved warrants cannot exceed ten percent of the total of the warrants and budget recommended by the committee.

One of the warrants, number four, will raise $170,000 for the first-year’s payment on a police department facility, which would bring the sum past that 10 percent threshold. Because of this, the text of the warrant now includes a clause exempting it from the total. The selectmen recommend it unanimously. Members of the Budget Committee were split two to two.


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