Lyndeborough talks tax rate after road repair

Town approves $1.9M budget

LYNDEBOROUGH – A year ago, when voters approved spending $1.6 million to repair Mountain Road, they were told the project would have no effect on the tax rate.

That promise was kept, Budget Committee Chairman Burton Reynolds told voters at this year’s Town Meeting on Saturday, March 18.

Even though the first payment on the 10-year bond, $125,000, is due this year, “The town portion of the tax rate is essentially flat,” he said.

Much of the first hour of the meeting was devoted to the project as part of the discussion of the $1,985,132 budget. About 60 people attended the 21/2-hour meeting at Citizens’ Hall.

In order to cover the costs of bond, “We looked at the Capital Reserve Funds more critically and more responsibly,” Reynolds said, such as “how we were purchasing Highway Department vehicles. We decided to consider used equipment,” but would continue to buy new trucks.

“Leasing is popular,” Reynolds said, which puts more good, low-mileage equipment on the market.

The town also changed the way vehicles are maintained, and don’t expect the road crew to be experts on new high-tech equipment.

“We have a representative of the (vehicle maker) come and provide service,” Reynolds said. “And we can keep some of it longer.”

Most of the savings were made in adjustments to the Capital Improvements Plan, paying less each year for a longer period.

Without these adjustments, Reynolds said, “The increase (in the tax rate) could have been $1.30.”

But, he cautioned, “The town is only 30 percent of the tax rate.”

The road project wasn’t completed last fall as expected because of several unexpected problems.

“Continental Paving looked at what had been done and found some holes in the section by Badger Pond,” Selectman Lee Mayhew said. “They will make the corrections at no cost to the town.”

The town crew will also do some more work by the pond.

“In early summer, we’ll wrap up the loose ends and overlay the whole project,” Mayhew said.

Leo Trudeau, who lives on Warner Road and has to use Mountain Road to go anywhere, ended the discussion about the road.

“I want to express my gratitude to every taxpayer who voted for Mountain Road, everyone who spent time to make it work,” he said. “A year ago, I couldn’t drive 15 miles an hour on it, and today I bet I hit 30. It will get done, and it will be done well.”

Last year’s budget totaled $1,793,143. Reynolds said anticipated revenues should cover the difference.

The budget was approved unanimously.

A request to change the purpose of a discontinued capital reserve fund also prompted some discussion.

The fund, which contains about $82,600, was established in 1993 to help cover expenses of sealing the landfill at what is now the Wilton Recycling Center. The town stopped making contributions in 2001 when it was determined that such a project could cost millions of dollars.

Selectmen asked that the fund be renamed Repair and Replacement of Lyndeborough Fire Department Equipment, but would exclude vehicles.

Fire Chief Brian Smith will come up with a list of equipment, such as the Jaws of Life, that will have to be replaced in coming years. None of the money can be spent until approved at next year’s Town Meeting.

It was noted that the town spent three years paying for upgrades to the department’s breathing apparatus, and that this fund would ease that kind of expenditure.

There were several residents who felt the fund should simply be eliminated and the money used to reduce taxes.

The motion easily exceeded the two-thirds required for the change of purpose.

After some debate, voters created a new fund for the repair and replacement of the ambulance and medical equipment. The purchase of a new ambulance is slated for 2020.

Some questioned why Lyndeborough has to pay for the ambulance when it’s owned by Wilton and Lyndeborough just hires the service. It was noted that Wilton can charge what it wants, and that includes the cost of the vehicle.

The new ambulance will cost about $220,000, “but hopefully less,” ambulance service Director Gary Zirpolo said.

Reynolds explained, “We are just saving our part of the costs over time instead of paying it all at once. We want consistency, and pay in what is appropriate for us.”

Contributions were made to existing funds for several pieces of Highway and Fire department vehicles.

A new rescue vehicle will cost about $149,000, and that amount was withdrawn from an existing fund.

The old vehicle will be used by the highway department and will be available to the Fire Department for pulling an equipment trailer, including forestry equipment.

Selectmen’s Assistant Cindi Hasty will soon retire, and will be honored at a reception at a later date.