Merrimack to deliberate bond, budget

MERRIMACK – In 2007, ballot-casters went to the booths to vote on 13 proposed warrant articles; in 2008, they dealt with 11.

This year, matters are simpler: just a bond and a budget.

Even so, the economy has kept things complicated for town councilors, who will host the Deliberative Session on Tuesday night.

After rejecting a recycling and trash program designed to cut costs, the council trimmed $1 million from the budget in order to follow their guideline of presenting voters a zero-increase plan for the next fiscal year.

In doing so, it eliminated a transfer station attendant, a part-time grounds worker, two part-time Fire Department employees and a planning assistant. Several other positions were downgraded in scope to save on wages.

They ended up with a proposal that calls for spending $365,000 less the current year.

Here’s where it gets a little confusing.

Overall, the budget stands at $31.59 million, which is actually $4.9 million above this year’s budget.

But town officials have said the number is inflated due to reserve accounts being folded into the overall budget, a change from previous years.

This means $5 million of the proposed budget is accounted for in items that taxpayers have already paid for.

Another way to look at it is through property taxes.

Last year, residents paid $12.92 million in property taxes for town expenses. This year, taxpayers would be in for $12.78 million, a savings of about $140,000.

The proposed tax rate for the town is $4.19, down from $4.23 this year. On the tax bill for a house assessed at $300,000, the town portion would be $1,257.

Residents will also be asked to consider $2.82 million for upgrades to the wastewater facility, which would be bonded and paid for entirely through user fees.

After the Deliberative Session, the Town Council will vote on its recommendations for each article, which will be published on the ballot.

Election Day is April 14.