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August 26. 2014 8:32PM

Merrimack council decides to save much of $854k surplus

MERRIMACK — Town officials, faced with a surplus of more than $850,000 from the fiscal year 2014 budget, have decided to save a large portion of that money.

“We had a very unusually good year this year,” Town Manager Eileen Cabanel told the Town Council last week.

Typically, the year-end surplus hovers around $20,000 to $50,000. However, this year the tally was $854,000. Cabanel said that the numbers are an anomaly and not the result of poor budgeting.

There was a significant amount of extra revenue from a large increase in motor-vehicle registrations during the fiscal year — about $400,000 more than anticipated, according to Cabanel.

There was also some unexpended appropriations in the former budget, mostly from salaries and wages allocated toward employees who have since retired or left their positions, she said.

Spending decisions

Cabanel originally suggested using the money to address townwide paving concerns, purchase new exterior doors for municipal buildings and reserve money for an architect to create a rendering of a possible future highway garage.

“I am in favor of the paving for sure,” said Councilor Finlay Rothhaus.

Town councilors agreed to allocate $250,000 for paving projects, which would bring the total paving amount to about $925,000.

The board also decided that $40,000 will be used to purchase 12 new exterior doors for the police department and town hall complex. Several had been installed in the 1980s.

The new doors, according to Finance Director Paul Micali, will be steel structures with glass panels and will also be handicap accessible.

Some concerns were raised about the proposal to spend $30,000 for the rendering of a new highway garage. Previously, $20,000 was spent on a space-needs study on the aging garage. However, voters narrowly rejected the construction of a proposed new facility in April.

The super-majority vote needed in April failed by about 100 votes, according to Councilor Dan Dwyer. He said he is optimistic it will pass if there is a higher voter turnout at a future election.

Councilors ultimately decided not to spend surplus money on an architect, but instead opted to reserve $55,000 for improvements to Wasserman Park.

The park is considered a jewel in town and has been a big priority in recent years, yet the city has not contributed a dime to the efforts, said Dwyer, encouraging money be allocated to enhance the park. His fellow board members agreed.

After assigning $345,000 in surplus funds to various projects, town officials voted to place the remaining $509,000 into the town’s unrestricted fund balance, or savings.

“That is a good deposit into the fund balance,” agreed the town manager.

khoughton@newstote.com


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