Merrimack deliberative voters to discuss budget March 13
Friday, February 22, 2013
The Town Council’s 2013-14 proposed operating budget of $28,725,477 is now up to voters.
The deliberative session will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 13, at Mastricola Upper Elementary School’s all purpose room, 26 Baboosic Lake Road. Voters will head to the polls to weigh in on the budget and accompanying warrant articles from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. April 9, at the same location.
The 2013-14 proposed tax rate remains the same after raises for nonunion employees were approved by the Town Council at their Feb. 14 meeting.
The proposed tax rate for the 2013-14 operating budget is $5.25 per $1,000 of assessed value, a 10 cent increase over the current tax rate. This was the same rate town voters approved for the current budget until added revenue from the Merrimack Premium Outlets and Public Service of New Hampshire property reduced the current tax rate to $5.14 per $1,000.
As of Feb. 14, five of the town’s six bargaining units had reached tentative agreements. The only outstanding one is the union that represents the Department of Public Works employees, Town Manager Eileen Cabanel said.
Councilor Dan Dwyer made a motion to give all full-time nonunion employees a one-time raise of $1,500. His motion exempted library employees. The Library Board of Trustees opted for a cheaper health insurance plan that would save the library money and allow for a one-time increase in payment of $1,500 for full-time employees to help offset the new health insurance costs.
Dwyer said his motion would allow the tax rate to remain stable at $5.25 per $1,000 of assessed value. Cabanel said she personally agrees with the increase for the nonunion employees, especially since they have been paying 10 percent of their health insurance costs since 2010 – which doesn’t kick in for union employees until next year or in two years, if their contracts are approved.
“The union people have always have had great representation and the nonunion people don’t,” he said. “I thought at this time if the unions could come together we should be able to benefit all employees. ... We’re lucky we have a great number of employees who work for us.”
The council approved a motion to use $78,355 in meter fees to offset the raise amount.
All five of the negotiated contracts contain a first-year, one-time increase of $1,500 to employees’ base pay. Health care concessions include increased contribution by employees to their plans and higher copays.
There is a warrant asking voters if they want to establish a tennis court capital reserve fund to replace and/or construct new tennis courts within town.
The default budget, which is more than $571,000 than the proposed budget, would result in an increased tax rate. Cabanel explained the default budget allows the town to spend money that was originally removed from the budget.
When Cabanel first presented her plan, she highlighted four budget challenges for fiscal 2014, including increases in health insurance, retirement, workers compensation and property liability, totaling $869,948. Other major players for the 2013-14 budget are the fire, police and highway departments. Cabanel requesting $5.04 million, $5.2 million and $2.4 million, respectively, for each department’s operating budgets.