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November 18. 2012 7:56PM

New Durham vows to cut costs as taxes rise 2.4 percent

NEW DURHAM - As the tax rate rose by 2.4 percent, officials plan to continue finding ways to tighten the community's belt, according to Selectman Chair David Bickford.

On Oct. 30, the state Department of Revenue Administration set the overall tax rate at $22.96 per $1,000 of local valuation. It is 56 cents greater than last year's rate of $22.40. Tax bills are due Dec. 3.

Meanwhile, the overall valuation of the town increased by $2,329,590 - or 0.56 percent - from $416,006,500 to $418,336,090.

The tax rate is broken down as follows: $6.85 for the town, $10.95 for local schools, $2.39 for state schools and $2.77 for the county. Last year, it was $6.88 for the town, $10.55 for local schools, $2.33 for state schools and $2.64 for the county.

"The town rate went down 3 cents and the local school rate went up 40 cents, but we don't have much control on that," Town Administrator Jeremy Bourgeois said.

Superintendent Jack Robertson said the majority of the increase is due to the fact New Durham sent more students to the Gov. Wentworth Regional School District this year. He added the number of students from the district's six towns - which also includes Brookfield, Effingham, Ossipee, Tuftonboro and Wolfeboro - fluctuates from year to year.

"Their portion of students going to Gov. Wentworth went up while Effingham went down," Robertson said, adding the state also provided New Durham with less adequacy aid this year.

As a result of the tough fiscal times, Robertson said the district worked very hard to produce a "lean budget," which resulted in the loss of several positions to keep costs low. Bickford said town officials have been looking into ways to reduce spending and plan to continue doing so as budget season approaches.

"We haven't done anything big," Bickford said, adding the most notable savings come from the fact they decided not to fill two vacancies on the police department, which has five full-time positions.

"Now we're down to three full-time. We have a few part-timers too," Bickford said, adding most neighboring departments have four full-time officers and do fine.

Bickford said the town decided to dispatch firefighters using Strafford County rather than Lakes Region Mutual Aid, which reduced costs from $24,000 to $2,400.

"I think our tax rate is higher than it should be - there's a lot of places you can shrink it down," Bickford said, adding they hope to reduce the land use clerk's position to part-time next year.

Residents of Copple Crown district must pay an additional tax of $7.38, resulting in a total tax rate of $30.34. The district tax is 30 cents more than last year's rate of $7.08 and the total rate is 86 cents - or 2.8 percent - greater than last year's rate of $29.48.

jquinn@newstote.com


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