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November 08. 2012 12:55AM

Somersworth residents pass tax cap

SOMERSWORTH - Somersworth residents voted Tuesday to implement a tax cap.

On Tuesday, residents voted 3,080-2,087 to amend the City Charter to limit annual increases - based on the National Consumer Price Index from the previous year - to the municipal and school budgets.

The amendment allows officials to override the tax cap and to exclude capital expenditures or payments on municipal bond only through a two-thirds vote by the City Council.

Finance Director Scott Smith expected city officials to discuss the tax cap, which previously failed in the city, to determine how it will affect next year's budget.

He said officials would also talk to their counterparts in Dover and Rochester, which also work within charter-mandated tax caps.

The City Council is scheduled to meet Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Tax rate set

On Oct. 29, the N.H. Department of Revenue Administration set the overall tax rate at $28.94 per $1,000 of local valuation. It is $1.11 - or 3.8 percent - greater than last year's rate of $27.83.

The tax rate is broken down as follows: $9.42 for the town, $14.50 for local schools, $2.38 for state schools and $2.64 for the county.

Last year, it was $9.21 for the town, $13.58 for local schools, $2.42 for state schools and $2.62 for the county.

Superintendent Jeni Mosca said the 92-cent rise in the local school rate was due to increases in retirement, insurance and contractual obligations.

"Ninety percent of the increases are always out of our hands," Mosca said, adding that as a result school officials strive to keep an eye on operating costs.

"We continue to look; we try to keep costs at a minimum," Mosca said, adding local communities must pay for more retirement costs that were previously covered by the state.

City Manager Robert Belmore said officials have taken various measures in the past few years to keep costs low.

Smith agreed there wasn't a particular action or measure that led to the 31-cent increase or the fact it was so low this year.

"They took an overall approach," Smith said.

Overall property values of $843,877,236 increased by $2,151,100 - or 0.25 percent - greater than last's year's amount of $841,726,136.

For more information, go to somersworth.com.

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John Quinn may be reached at jquinn@newstote.com.

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