Budget cuts continue in Merrimack

MERRIMACK – More cuts have been made to the proposed 2004-05 budget: The library trustees have trimmed an additional $49,961.

That brings the proposed municipal budget, excluding warrant articles, to $24,563,977. That represents a reduction of 7.06 percent from the current budget of $26,430,022.

On Thursday night, the Board of Selectmen trimmed $130,610 off the proposed budget, which already had been reduced by $1.3 million from the budget department heads had presented selectmen three weeks ago. The department heads cut an additional 5 percent from their proposals at the selectmen’s direction.

“Once again, we were very, very pleased with the job the department heads did to trim the budget,” Selectmen’s Chairman Dick Hinch said Friday. “They . . . came through and demonstrated once again they’re true dedicated professionals.”Hinch said he is pleased town officials are able to come through with a budget that’s 7 percent less than current spending, adding selectmen are still looking to impact the budget, such as ways to enhance revenues.

“It’s been the goal to have an impact on the tax rate and tax bills,” said Finance Director Bob Levan.

Tax bills have risen this fall an average of 19 percent, prompting both town and school officials to look for ways to trim expenses from next year’s spending.

The proposed municipal budget will be presented to the Budget Committee on Tuesday, Levan said, and town officials hope to have the budget posted on the town’s Web site that day.

The Budget Committee can opt to make more cuts, restore items or leave the spending plan as is. After the committee’s perusal, the budget will go to a public hearing in February and will be presented to voters at a Deliberative Session in the spring and the annual Town Meeting in April.

Levan noted that the selectmen’s cuts have reduced the estimated municipal portion of the town’s tax rate to $5.01 from $5.04, based on estimated assessments and revenues.

The library trustees’ cuts, which town officials were told of Friday, break down to $25,000 from the transfer of funds to the library construction capital reserve account, $15,461 for library materials and $9,500 for office equipment.

On the school side of town spending, schools administrators are meeting with the School Board in a goal-setting workshop for the budget Sunday at 5:30 p.m. at Merrimack High School.

The proposed 2004-05 school district budget will be presented to the School Board in December.

The school budget also will go to public hearings, be examined by the Budget Committee and be presented to voters at a Deliberative Session and at the annual School District Meeting in April.