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November 07. 2012 3:02AM

Londonderry town budget increases expected next year

LONDONDERRY - The town is anticipating a 2.78 percent budget increase over last year's municipal budget.

Officials shared details of a proposed $27,498,483 budget during Monday evening's town council meeting.

Several dozen residents gathered at Town Hall for a public discussion on Woodmont Commons, though most left before the initial budget presentation took place.

Council Chairman John Farrell encouraged residents to stay for the presentation. "This is your money," he told them.

Acting Town Manager Bill Hart said the budget process would continue over the next two months. Further budget discussion meetings will take place Nov. 19, 26 and 29, with a preliminary warrant approval scheduled for Dec. 13.

A budget public hearing will take place Dec. 17 and a bond public hearing on Dec. 27. The budget will be finalized in early January, with town deliberative session to take place Feb. 4. Town meeting is March 12.

"The budget process will involve several sessions where we'll go in depth with each department," Hart said this week.

Hart said the town's anticipated revenues next year total $338,688, with much of that revenue from vehicle registration.

In March 2011, voters approved the current method of town governing, putting an end to the traditional form of town meeting, where meeting attendees voted on various warrant items during the meeting.

This year, all budget items will be voted by ballot, with budget items finalized during the February deliberative session.

Hart said voters would be given the choice between the proposed budget and the $27,640,402 default budget, which is 3.31 percent higher than the current year's $26,754,216 budget.

The default budget is determined based on the current year's operating budget adjusted by contractual obligations and reduced by any one-time expenses that happened in the past year.

"This year is really our first year in a default budget, since we had a traditional town meeting before that," Hart said.

Town officials attributed a budget increase of $744,000 to the costs of employee benefits, noting the town has seen a 24 percent increase in retirement costs and employee benefit costs due to new legislation shifting such responsibilities to individual towns.

"It bears repeating, those two items alone are wholly responsible for the budget increase," Hart said.

As a way to reduce the town's tax burden, revenues collected from a five-year contract between the Londonderry Police Department and Manchester-Boston Regional Airport will earn the town $2.5 million next year.

While the planning board has recommended a $12.3 million bond for the development of Pettengill Road, along with a $600,000 bond for the town's Open Space program, Hart said the proposed budget includes neither item.

Hart said the decision was made "given the current economic climate," and noted that the Pettengill Road project has been deferred until development partners are identified.

An all-day budget workshop will take place on Saturday, Nov. 17, where the town departments will present their individual budgets for the coming fiscal year. The meeting will begin at 8 a.m. in Town Hall.


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