Merrimack voters set to take to polls

MERRIMACK – Voters in Merrimack will take to the polls Tuesday to decide on next year’s spending plans and who will take the leadership reins.

On the town side of the ballot, residents will consider a $31.6 million budget.

That figure is $4.9 million above current spending, but town officials have emphasized that reserve accounts for major spending are now being folded into the whole. That means $5 million of the proposed budget is accounted for in items taxpayers have already paid for.

In terms of dollars, the budget is actually down by about $365,000. In terms of the tax rate, the town’s portion would be $4.19, down from $4.23 this year.

Residents will also consider $2.82 million for the engineering, construction oversight and an installation of new “dewatering” equipment to the wastewater facility, which would be bonded and paid for entirely through user fees. The equipment will replace machinery that’s 40 years old and frequently breaks down, officials have said.

On the school side, voters will weigh a $63.6 million budget, which is about $883,000, or 1.4 percent, above current spending. School officials have attributed the increase largely to health insurance, retirement costs, increases to teachers’ salaries and benefits, transportation contracts, and rate increases for out-of-district special education placements.

The budget also includes $150,000 to replace an 8-year-old computer lab, $99,000 for a new library automation system and $85,000 for programs for at-risk students.

Two other spending articles will also appear on the ballot: a $287,936 contract for salaries and benefits to support staff, including paraprofessionals, assistants and mechanics, and $150,000, or half the end-of-year surplus, whichever is lower, to be set aside in a reserve account for roof repairs.

Including the warrant articles, the school’s portion of the tax rate will go up an estimated 7 cents, adding about $14 to a typical tax bill.

Voters will also consider three contested races: for Town Council, School Board and town clerk.

Those vying for the three open council seats are Dan Dwyer, Tom Koenig, Thomas Lynam, Michael Turcotte and incumbents Tom Mahon, Mike Malzone and David Yakuboff.

Running for the two open school board seats are Shannon Barnes and incumbents Jennifer Thornton and Jody Vaillancourt.

For town clerk, incumbent Diane Trippett is running against Dave McCray.

Ballot-casters must be registered to vote, which can happen at the polls during Election Day.

Voters must be at least 18 years old, a U.S. citizen and domiciled in Merrimack.