BEDFORD — Town officials are proposing a nearly $33.7 million budget, which includes a recommended renovation to Sportsman Field on Nashua Road.

“Right now, it is unfortunately falling apart and needs heavy maintenance,” town council chairman Bill Duschatko said of the athletic field.

About $800,000 in reserve funds is being proposed for the improvements to Sportsman Field.

Artificial turf and new lighting will be included in the project, if the budget is approved by voters in March.

“It is time to get it done,” Duschatko said of the field renovation.

Town Manager Rick Sawyer agreed. Sawyer said earlier that the field needs to be restored as soon as possible since it is used by school and community groups.

The town council’s newly proposed general fund budget is $31,348,938; after calculating other independent accounts that are not tax-based, such as the sewer fund, recreational day camp and community television, the total appropriations are $33,680,478.

“I think we have made pretty good progress in controlling our costs and keeping our non-tax revenues at very attractive levels,” said Duschatko.

The town portion of the 2020 tax rate is projected to be $4.36 per $1,000 of assessed valuation compared to last year’s tax rate of $4.14.

Still, Duschatko explained that since 2015, the town portion of the tax bill is actually down more than $200 for a home assessed at $400,000.

“I think we have done a very good job,” added Duschatko.

In 2015, the tax rate was $5.02 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, which equated to about $2,008 on a $400,000 home. With the projected tax rate of $4.36 for 2020, the town portion of the tax bill will be about $1,744 on the same house.

Nearly 60% of the proposed $33.7 million budget is attributed to town personnel.

Also included in the budget is the hiring of a new information technology support professional, as well as funding for initial testing and a plan to respond to contamination of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) adjacent to the town’s landfill.

Lori Radke, the former town clerk in Bedford who now serves as town administrator in Hollis, said it is nice to provide staffing to help support the town’s existing workforce.

However, Radke stressed the need for additional staffing to assist the community as well.

“I think that is a piece that is missing here in Bedford,” Radke said, encouraging the town council to consider hiring a full-time director of parks and recreation.

Sawyer said town officials were able to save some money despite an anticipated 10.7% increase in health care costs.

After looking at historical data on health care expenses throughout the past few years, Sawyer said this year the town will be able to level-fund it and absorb the six-month rate increase.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020
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