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January 29. 2013 10:45PM

$600,000 in bonds for Raymond water system called 'critical' but would raise user rates

RAYMOND - Town officials are hoping for strong turnout at Saturday's town deliberative session at Raymond High School.

With 21 articles on this year's proposed warrant, there will be plenty to talk about.

At the top of the agenda will be two bond articles related to groundwater exploration and permitting in town at a cost of $600,000 to be absorbed by water users, not through general taxation.

Town Manager Craig Wheeler said the two water bond articles are "absolutely critical."

"It would be my recommendation to the selectmen as our highest priority," Wheeler said.

Voters will also have to consider this year's proposed operating budget of $7,421,964 which represents a 25-cent tax increase per $1,000 valuation. It represents a 3.37 percent increase over the 2012 approved budget of $7,149,118.

Raymond, like every other municipality and school district in the state, is grappling with the state government no longer contributing to the New Hampshire Retirement System and the cost being passed on to communities. The rate increase over just six months will cost the town an additional $41,108.79. The total contribution for 2013 is estimated at $382,478.

Wheeler said department heads had to work hard to look for other areas they could cut or keep level in order to handle the increased retirement costs.

The proposed budget is being recommended by both the board of selectmen and the budget committee, neither of which made any changes to the budget proposed by Wheeler.

Several other warrant articles will be familiar to voters, including articles to contribute to the town's scholarship fund, social service agencies, mosquito spraying and road reconstruction projects.

Three citizens' warrant articles will also be up for discussion, including one that calls for a ban on ATV use in an area of town with dense residential housing and where many elderly residents suffer from health problems they say are exacerbated by ATV use in their neighborhoods.

Voters will also weigh in on a proposed three-year agreement with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 863 union, which Wheeler said is a "fair agreement" with compromises made by both the town and the union. The contract calls for an $8,760 increase in the first year which represents a one-cent impact on the tax rate per $1,000 of valuation.

The town's deliberative session begins at 10 a.m. Saturday at Raymond High School. Voting will take place March 12 at Iber Holmes Gove Middle School from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The filing period for open seats is currently underway and closes Friday at 5 p.m. Two positions are open on the board of selectmen, as well as two on the planning board and three on the budget committee.

gmacalaster@newstote.com


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