Merrimack taxpayers face 7% rate rise, no aid from surplus

MERRIMACK – Residents will have to dig deeper into their pockets to pay property taxes this year.

The state Department of Revenue Administration has set Merrimack’s property tax rate at $18.94 per $1,000 of home assessment values. That figure is $1.30 – or 7.4 percent – more than last year’s rate. It means that the annual property tax bill on a home assessed at $300,000 will be up about $390.

In 2007, Merrimack’s tax rate went up only slightly. The tax bill on a house assessed at $300,000 went up about $50.

One of the primary reasons for the noticeable increase is that the town couldn’t apply surplus to the bottom line, which it has done in the past two years.

In March, Town Manager Keith Hickey found that a $1.1 million reimbursement grant from the state for the Bedford Road bridge project had been incorrectly accounted for.

The mistake meant only a few thousand dollars was available to return in tax relief, compared with $1.39 million the year before.

Also this year, nonproperty tax revenue went down $140,000, and townspeople voted to hire two new police officers for about $139,500. Each of those impacted the rate by about 5 cents per $1,000 in assessed value, according to a press statement from the town.

The last piece of the increase can be chalked up to $351,000 more in deposits to reserve accounts for capital projects, which added 11 cents per $1,000 to the town’s portion of the tax rate.

The local school part of the tax rate also went up this year.

Contractual obligations for teacher salaries made up some of the increase, said Matt Shevenell, the school district’s business administrator.

Also, the district put forth $210,000 in security measures, including exterior cameras and locks at all six school buildings and 27 interior cameras for hallways and stairwells at Merrimack High School.

Another $134,000 was spent to replace 100 computers and 24 printers at the district’s three elementary schools and the upper elementary school.

Shevenell pointed out that the district curbed potential increases in utility and fuel costs with an energy-efficiency program.

The other two pieces of the rate changed slightly, with state school taxes decreasing 7 cents and the county portion rising by a penny.

The town’s total valuation increased by $20,951,893, or less than 1 percent, to $3,219,721,756.

Property taxes are due back to the town by Dec. 1 to avoid interest penalties. Anyone with questions about property tax assessments should call the assessing department at 424-5136 or the town manager’s office at 424-2331.