Amherst selectmen to discuss budget

AMHERST – The Board of Selectmen will hold a public hearing about Amherst’s proposed fiscal year 2005 operating budget Tuesday at 8 p.m. at Souhegan High School. A bond hearing is scheduled at the same location an hour beforehand.

The proposed operating budget of $7.25 million is about 3.7 percent higher than this fiscal year’s $6.99 million budget.

More than half of the increase stems from items such as step wage increases and insurance costs. The next biggest bump comes from Amherst’s membership in the Milford Area Communication Center, the regional center that dispatches around-the-clock emergency calls for police, fire, EMS and public works.

MACC membership is expected to cost the town about $220,000 this coming fiscal year, a 33 percent increase over last year attributed to proposed new equipment at the MACC base.

The bond hearing concerns selectmen’s wish to secure a $5.5 million bond for the purchase of land, a $249,500 bond for improvements to Boston Post Road near the high school and a $250,000 bond to replace a fire truck.

The land bond would be used to buy open space for the town’s conservation and passive recreation needs.

Up to 15 percent of the $5.5 million, or $825,000, would be used to buy open space for active recreation, if suitable parcels became available.

If appropriate land parcels were found immediately, the property tax rate would rise 44 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation for a 20-year bond, costing the owner of a $200,000 home an extra $88 in property taxes. The effect should be less than that, however, because, “It will take awhile to find all the land” to buy, Town Administrator Carl Weber said.

Weber called the 44-cent impact a “worst-case-scenario tax-rate increase, without any increase in valuation.”

The $249,500 bond would fund the creation of a turning lane and traffic light at the intersection of Boston Post Road and Davis Witty Drive.

The bond would raise the property tax 3 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation for a 10-year bond. If approved, taxpayers with homes assessed at $200,000 would pay an extra $6 on their tax bills.

The $250,000 bond – also planned for 10 years – would be used to replace a leaky fire truck that is more than 20 years old. The tax impact would be essentially the same as the road improvements.

Lynn Tryba can be reached at 594-6402 or