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Derry council OKs $47.1m budget amid controversy

Union Leader Correspondent

May 16. 2018 9:49PM

DERRY — Town officials this week adopted a $47.1 million budget for fiscal year 2019, and approved a controversial proposal to outsource Derry’s human services department.

The new $47.1 million spending plan approved unanimously by the town council on Tuesday is slightly higher than the budget that was recommended by Town Administrator David Caron.

According to James Morgan, Town Council chairman, the new budget will increase the town portion of the tax rate from $8.44 per $1,000 of assessed valuation to an estimated $8.51.

The budget is below the town’s tax cap, which would have enabled the council to increase the tax rate up to $8.58; town officials opted to increase spending by about half of what was permitted under the cap, explained Morgan.

The new budget includes $282,745 for the human services department to be outsourced. The council is now expected to sign a contract with Greater Derry Community Health Services to provide services that are currently offered through the town.

The vote to outsource was approved 4-3 by the council.

“It is a decision based on facts and figures, not emotion,” said Morgan, whose brother is mentally handicapped.

Morgan said he toured CHS last week and spoke with the director at length about the program. He is confident that CHS will not only maintain existing services provided by the town, but actually expand upon those services.

According to Morgan, there are currently eight staff members at CHS, but one additional employee will be hired once the contract is signed with the town.

Not everyone was pleased about the change, including Councilor Phyllis Katsakiores.

“I am dead-set against outsourcing the health and human services. I think we are doing a disservice to our people,” she told her colleagues.

Katsakiores said she received several calls from constituents concerned about the outsourcing, adding she worries that clients might be embarrassed to visit the Tsienneto Road location, or that the change could place an extra burden on local churches.

“I just think we are being penny wise and pound foolish by closing our facility here. People are used to coming here — I think it is more private here,” added Katsakiores.

Councilor Joshua Bourdon also expressed reservations about the outsourcing.

“I keep hearing about people slipping through the cracks, and oversight. I guess I am not convinced we will ever know, and that is my biggest concern,” said Bourdon.

Caron said an extensive transition plan has been developed to help residents who utilize the services. The new guidelines will be given to applicants when they come to town hall, said Caron, adding CHS will provide town officials with monthly activity reports, and a termination clause will be written into the one-year contract to address potential performance standards, if warranted.

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