HOOKSETT — As most Hooksett voters continue to focus on the school district budget and which high school students from the town will attend, Hooksett Town Councilors remain focused on establishing the town warrant.
Wednesday, Hooksett’s local governing body met and moved closer to finalizing the articles on which residents will vote at Town Meeting on April 5. They also supported the proposed default budget.
The default budget is $16,451,761, which is 1.17 percent — $194,766 — less than the town council’s recommended budget of $16,646,527, but nearly $400,000 more than the 2013-14 municipal budget.
The increase is primarily associated with an additional $249,550 in employee health insurance costs, a $159,160 raise in property liability insurance, a $32,967 bump for the third year of the fire union contract, and $19,642 for non-union employees at their current rate.
Those increases are partially offset by a decrease of $126,500 in revaluation contracts and a $20,968 reduction of costs for the DPW and recycling and transfer union contract due to employee turnover.
Town councilors also voted on several proposed warrant articles, including a request for $180,000 to purchase an automated collection truck for the town’s recycling and transfer department, money that would be pulled from the Solid Waste Disposal Special Revenue Fund, and another $100,000 to be raised and placed in the Town Building Maintenance Capital Reserve Fund.
Similarly, another article requests $100,000 to establish a capital reserve fund for purchasing Department of Public Works (DPW) vehicles, and there is also an article to authorize the council to enter into a seven-year $248,400 lease agreement for a DPW tire excavator The latter article includes a request to raise and appropriate $41,433 for the first payment of the proposed lease.
“Some of the feedback we’ve received from residents is that we’ve had too many articles in past years, so we’re trying to pare those articles down to 10 or 12,” said Town Council Chairman James Sullivan, who noted the lone proposal generating a close vote was a request to hire a town engineer.
“Typically what we do is contract that service out, but we’re trying to make the position more of an in-house responsibility,” said Sullivan, who was the deciding vote to place the article on the ballot.
One article not discussed was the police union contract, which is currently under negotiation. Town councilors have until the end of the month to approve the article in time to add it to the warrant.