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Merrimack town, school boards adopt budgets

MERRIMACK - The town council and local school board this week adopted their proposed budgets for the next fiscal year, which voters will have an opportunity to amend during two upcoming deliberative sessions.

On Monday, the town council approved a proposed 2013-14 budget of $28,698,782, which is less than the current operating budget of about $30 million approved at last year's town deliberative session.

"We had several large capital projects last year," said Thomas Mahon, chairman of the town council, explaining last year's higher budget. "I am pleased with the proposed budget - it is very good."

Mahon said town officials were presented with an increase of about $850,000 for health insurance and retirement costs.

"The department heads worked very hard to compensate for that," said Mahon.

If the proposed $28.7 million budget is approved by voters, the tax rate is expected to remain steady at $5.25 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. For a typical home assessed at $300,000, their property tax bill will be about $7,000, with a portion of that - about $1,572 - representing the local municipal taxes.

Although the current tax rate was originally set at $5.25, Mahon explained that because of an increase in valuation from the Merrimack Premium Outlets and two Public Service of New Hampshire substations, the actual town tax rate was closer to $5.14.

Mahon stressed that the budget is not yet final, as there are still unresolved collective bargaining agreements that could affect the bottom line.

A public hearing on the proposed town budget, which is slightly higher than the recommended budget prepared by Town Manager Eileen Cabanel, has been set for 7 p.m. Feb. 14 at Town Hall.

The town deliberative session is planned for March 13.

Also this week, the local school board adopted its proposed budget of $65,880,964, which is up slightly from last year's $65.4 million budget approved by voters.

Under the proposal, six teaching positions will be cut because of a decrease in student enrollment.

"We had to make some difficult decisions in this budget," said board chairman Christopher Ortega, explaining there was a 23 percent increase in state retirement costs, which resulted in an additional expense of about $735,000.

Among the school district warrant articles that will be presented to voters at the March 6 school deliberative session is a proposed $1.5 million building to house the school district's administrative office and special services facility.

"There is no capital reserve account for the (proposed) building, which has been talked about for 10 years now," said Ortega.

Voting Day is April 9.

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