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Goffstown selectmen, school board to hold joint meeting

GOFFSTOWN — Selectmen will spend their next three meetings combing over figures presented by department heads in preparation for budget season.

Budgets presented by town departments show nearly a 28 percent increase in the operating budget over last year.

The budget summary presented to selectmen by Town Administrator Sue Desruisseaux prompted a discussion among board members about how to balance the needs of the town with what residents can afford as they work toward presenting their budget to the Budget Committee.

A joint meeting with the Selectmen and the school board will be held at Goffstown High School on Tuesday night to discuss what the needs are on both sides.

&#';We need to be on the same page,&#'; said Vice Chairman Scott Gross. &#';We cannot continue to throw everything to the wall and see what sticks with the voters.&#';

Voters rejected all but two warrant articles on the town side last year, and voted against a $15 million bond to fund improvements at the two elementary schools, as well as an additional $2.8 million to fund improvements to the track and theater at Goffstown High School. The bonds are expected to reappear on March's ballot, but the town is considering a $3.3 million dollar bond for improvements to its fire stations as well.

Gross said it's important for the boards to understand each other and to work together.

&#';We can only split the taxpayer dollars so many ways,&#'; Selectman Collis Adams said, and suggested that the board come up with what they feel is a palatable tax rate, and work backward to create budgets that would reflect it.

Gross said one of the largest increases in the budget involves health insurance costs for employees, and that they should be reexamined.

The town currently pays 90 percent of employee health insurance premiums.

&#';The insurance costs are what are killing us,&#'; he said. &#';We have to look at containing some of these costs.&#';

According to Desruisseaux, the final figures for insurance premiums have not come in yet, which led her to put in the highest possible rates in the budget, estimating that those figures are likely to come down.

With no big-ticket warrant articles passed this year, the town does not anticipate using any of its fund balance to offset this year's tax rate, said Chairman David Pierce.

This year's tax rate for the town is expected to be set by next week.

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