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January 29. 2013 10:46PM

Selectmen offer Rindge new fiscal plan

RINDGE - Selectmen gave voters a way out of the 18-month budget mandate Monday morning by adding an article to the March town meeting warrant that would reverse the course of switching to a fiscal budget year. Voters can discuss and amend warrant articles at the deliberative session that starts at 9 a.m. on Saturday at Rindge Memorial School.

Earlier this month, board members apologized for giving residents no other option other than an 18-month budget this year. Many were under the impression they could vote against switching to a fiscal year budget from a calendar year budget - which requires the onetime 18-month budget - by simply voting the budget down.

Over 60 percent of the voters said yes in 2012 to the switch in a vote, said Town Administrator Carlotta Lilback Pini.

But voters as well as town officials know that, because Rindge is an SB2 town without a municipal budget committee, if the 18-month budget was voted down in 2013, the default budget would be an 18-month version of the previous 12-month budget, she said.

The proposed 18-month budget is $5,424,329. The default budget would be $5,580,458.

To make the transition easier, the board proposed a bond article to place the bulk of the budget increase caused by the 18-month budget onto a $1.5 million bond to be paid off in five to seven years.

Selectwoman Roberta Oeser took a further step at a Monday morning meeting to finalize the warrant by proposing a new warrant article be added to strike down the change to a fiscal year. Last year, town officials sought permission at the town meeting to switch to a fiscal budget for several reasons, Pini said.

On a calendar year budget, the town is spending its budget starting in January before finally approving it in mid-March, Pini said.

On a fiscal year track, the budget would be approved and the first tax bill for that budget would be paid in May and June before the budget officially starts July 1.

The fiscal budget also would put the town in line with the Jaffrey-Rindge Cooperative School District and state budget planning. In recent years as the state has downshifted costs to municipalities. The town has approved budgets in March only to learn later in the year the state has cut its funding.

One year, the state stuck the town with a $600,000 shortfall, Pini said.

Under a fiscal budget, the town could anticipate any state cuts, she said.

"So if they cut our meals and rooms tax or cut our highway grant, we're not going to spend that money," she said.

The selectmen still support moving to a fiscal year budget, Pini said, but wanted to give voters who oppose it and the $1.5 million bond an option at the town meeting.

"What the selectmen are recommending is that the 18-month budget that is proposed be accepted by the voters and the bond be approved because the bond will make the transition more palatable for voters fiscally cause it spreads the cost," she said. "Basically, we're taking 18 months of expenditures and proposing to pay for them over one year so that additional costs would be bonded and spread out over five or seven years.

"The interest rates are extremely low and it's really an ideal time to bond for something like this."

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