Lyndeborough voters approve budget at Town Meeting

LYNDEBOROUGH – The town has a new official holder of the Boston Post Cane as the oldest resident, and also has an official town song, “The Song of Lyndeborough.”

While Lucy Schmidt was on hand to receive accolades – and correct a couple of dates in her introduction by Selectman Fred Douglas – Wally Holt was unable to sing his composition, because of a cold so his CD was played. It is available at the Village Store.

Schmidt, 94, has been a resident since 1938, served a number of years as a voting official, and was part of many town celebrations and functions. She was accompanied by several members of her large extended family. She was presented a replica of the 1909 cane which she will hold. She noted that her father held the cane beginning in 1970.

In more serious business, the 65 voters who remained after the ceremonies, approved a budget of $1,806,333, which was explained by Budget Committee Chairman Don Guertin. The legal expense line of the budget was increased by $144,000 to cover the amount owed to the Town of Wilton in an error by the state Department of Revenue in the school apportionment in 2010.

The money will come from the town’s surplus funds.

Guertin said the budget, which is essentially the same as last year’s, includes a 1.5 percent raise for all employees.

Several budget lines are down because Town Administrator Kate Thorndyke has been in medical leave (and has since resigned) and the Police Department has been understaffed.

The rest of the warrant was concerned in various ways with Capital Reserve Funds and all were accepted with little or no discussion after Acting own Administrator Burton Reynolds explained the purpose and philosophy behind the funds.

He said several of the requested donations to the funds had been changed since last fall to spread the cost out over more years and reduce the bottom line. Some equipment, including a police cruiser “have been pushed out” a year or two.

Several of the established funds were changed to add the word “repair” to “replacement of.”

A fund for a backhoe was discontinued and a new one established for the 2008 loader.

At the close of the meeting, retiring selectman Kevin Boette was presented a plaque and thanks were extended to all who had helped during the year.

Lunch was provided by the Fire Department Auxiliary.

Voters at Town Meeting on Saturday approved the withdrawal of $144,000 from the town’s fund balance to repay Wilton for an error made in 2010 by the state Department of Revenue Administration in apportioning the cooperative school assessment.

Acting Administrator Burton Reynolds said 2010 was the first year after changes had been made in the Articles of Agreement between the two towns which changed part of the funding formula. The change was not noted by the DRA and Wilton was assessed part of Lyndeborough’s share.

A town has ten days to note errors in the DRA findings, Reynolds said, and neither town did until the following year when Reynolds noted the error.

While Lyndeborough has never disputed the fact that they owed the funds, no legal way was found to repay it. The question went to Superior Court and the judge ruled that a contract – The Articles of Agreement – outweighed tax law and Lyndeborough had to repay the funds.

Reynolds said the fund balance to be used, money left over from previous years, had been mostly paid by taxpayers in 2010 and 2011 and therefore was not impacting today’s voters. He said the selectmen would “work out a payment schedule over the coming year to repay the money.”

Use of the fund balance will not affect this year’s tax rate.

Asked about the amount in the fund balance, Reynolds said, “At the end of 2012, there was a balance of $687,000,” but $168,000 of that had been used to reduce taxes.

The fund balance, he said, “is an accounting, not an actual cash balance.” Currently there is $300,000 in uncollected taxes.

It is the selectmen’s policy to keep between 6 and 12 percent of revenues in reserve as required by the DRA.

“The auditors will be here in May,” he said, “and I think we’ll find that we will be well within that.”

Asked why the town didn’t go back to court to disputer the finding, Reynolds said court costs are about $15,000.