Board looks to fees for revenue

MERRIMACK – Round two on Thursday added $92,000 to what the town will generate each year in additional fees charged residents for a variety of services.

That brings the total to roughly $302,000 a year in additional revenue from fees – provided use of these services remains constant.

On Jan. 8, the Board of Selectmen approved a slate of fee increases, ranging from the costs of copying documents in Town Hall to dog licenses. The most extensive increases were in ambulance services.

On Thursday, the board took a swipe at the town fees in round two, when it unanimously passed a new schedule for fees charged by the fire and community service departments for things such as building permits and inspections.

The increases are an avenue selectmen took to help bolster the town’s fiscal situation as a response to the large tax increase that residents homeowners confronted last fall.

The board already pared down the 2004-05 budget to avoid a repeat of this year, when tax bills were up an average of 19 percent. Selectmen also wanted to cut costs as much as possible in the current year and to boost fees to help town revenue.

Fees hadn’t increased in the past 12-15 years, said selectmen’s Chairman Dick Hinch, who proposed the fee increases. The new fees are competitive with those charged in other towns, he said.

While residents who use these services will be paying more, the fee increases will benefit taxpayers who don’t use the services, because less money to run the town will have to be raised through taxes, Hinch said.

The fee scheduled was proposed by town department heads after the board asked them to suggest ways to increase the fees. The board earlier in fall had likewise turned to managers to suggest ways to trim spending in next year’s proposed budget.

“They did a brilliant job,” Hinch said.

He praised Town Manager Dean Shankle and the department heads “for once again” coming through when asked by selectmen.

Here are some of the fees the board increased Thursday:
Community Development

– Applications for residential and commercial building permits – from $10 to $25.
– New construction – from 10 cents to 20 cents a foot.
– Commercial storage tanks from 500 to 2,000 gallons – $10 to $50.
– Commercial storage tanks more than 2,000 gallons – $25 to $100.
– Construction of above-ground swimming pools – $20 to $50.
– Construction of in-ground swimming pools – $30 to $100.
– New septic system – $100 to $150.
– Replacement of an in-kind septic system – $75 to $100.

Fire Department
– Blasting permits (first five days) – from $25 to $50.
– Each additional day – a new charge of $5 a day.
– Review of sprinkler plans – new fee of $1 per device, with a $50 minimum.
– Inspections of day-care centers, hospices and nursing homes – new fee of $25.

Patrick Meighan can be reached at 594-6518 or