$9.3m spending plan before voters

HOLLIS – Voters at next week’s annual Town Meeting will be asked to approve a proposed $9.27 million budget for the calendar year 2009, an increase of $194,236, or 2.14 percent, over last year’s budget.

The meeting is Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the Hollis/Brookline Cooperative High School gymnasium. The meeting will continue Thursday night, if needed.

The proposed increase is mainly the result of capital lease payments approved at the 2008 Town Meeting for lease-to-purchase agreements on three major pieces of equipment for the Fire Department and five major pieces of equipment for the Department of Public Works, said finance director Paul Calabria.

Calabria said the 2008 budget included six months of lease payments, while the 2009 budget contains a full year of lease payments, resulting in an increase of $122,333 in spending.

The other significant increase is in the road-rebuilding request, which is $74,000 higher than in 2008.

At the same time, the town is projecting a decline in revenues, a casualty of fewer motor vehicle registrations and building permit fees, as well as less interest income, Calabria added.

He said the budget, if approved, will raise the town portion of the tax rate by an estimated 26 cents per $1,000 of assessed property valuation, to about $4.83.

That means the owner of a $350,000 home will pay an additional $91 in property taxes, for a total town portion of $1,690.50.

The warrant article with the highest price tag asks voters to approve an $850,000 bond to make repairs to the Town Hall.

Originally, officials considered asking voters to approve borrowing $2.5 million for a full renovation or $1 million for partial repairs.

But concerns about the economy forced them to rethink the request, downsizing the proposal to cover the costs of critical structural repairs and minor improvements.

Other monetary warrant articles put before the voters include employee health insurance, $719,590, a decrease of $4,900 over last year; brush removal to clean up after the Dec. 12 ice storm, $200,000 (offset by a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant of $150,000); money for accrued vacation balances (compensated absences), $20,000; and an emergency maintenance fund, $24,000.

Voters will also be asked to decide on several non-monetary warrant articles.