New London: Town budget summary, hearings coming up

By Jessie Levine, town administrator of New London, NH

On January 31, 2011, the [New London] Budget Committee will hold the first of two public hearings on the proposed 2011-2012 budget. It is at these hearings that the Budget Committee will make final decisions on the department and community requests, capital reserve funds, and overall budget. Up until now, the Budget Committee has been deliberating — but has taken no votes — on the budget presented to them by the Board of Selectmen on November 15. The two public hearings will be the forum at which all decisions will be made on the proposed budget.

Because the Board of Selectmen and Budget Committee voted to change from a traditional January-December fiscal year to the optional July-June fiscal year, this budget covers the 18 months from January 1, 2011 to June 30, 2012. While it is difficult to compare 18 months to 12 months, the 12 months of 2011 represent a 0.9% operating budget increase over the 2010 budget for the same time period (this follows a 0.3% operating budget decrease in 2010 and a 5% decrease in 2009). In addition, the budget for the first six months of 2012 is less than 50% of the previous 12 months.

In August, the Board of Selectmen asked the Town Administration and Department Heads for an operating budget of no more than a 2% increase. The budget presented to the Board of Selectmen in October had an increase of 1.9%. Since then, changes were made that brought the increase down to 0.9%:

  • The Board of Selectmen changed the employee health insurance benefit, resulting in a 10% reduction in health insurance costs and saving the Town about $50,000. This savings includes, only in 2011, the decision to fund the deductible to soften the transition to the new plan. Following the change, some employees opted to take the “buyout” that encourages them to use a spouse’s health plan at additional savings for the Town;
  • Following the resignation of our long-time contract Planner, Ken McWilliams, we made changes to the operations of the Planning Department that reduced planning expenses by 50%, or $10,000;
  • The Town’s Workers’ Compensation expense was lower than projected, saving almost $10,000; and
  • With the assistance of Lake Sunapee and Sugar River banks, we refinanced most of our outstanding loans, reducing annual interest payments by about $10,000. Overall, debt interest payments are down 14% in 2011.

The following items contribute to the 0.9% budget increase:

  • Payments to the NH Retirement System increased 10-15% to cover the Retirement System’s shortfall;
  • We reinstated the annual household hazardous waste collection at a cost of $9,000;
  • The request by New London Hospital for ambulance services increased by almost $39,000, or 41%; and
  • Milfoil prevention grant requests from the lake associations total $21,200 in both 2011 and the first half of 2012.


General Government: The General Government budget— 18% of the Town budget—increases by 0.5%. This slight increase is almost entirely related to the pending retirement of our long-time Finance Officer, Carol Fraley, resulting in overlapping employment for a period of time in 2011.

Public Safety: The Public Safety budget—24% of the Town budget— decreases by 2.7% in 2011. The savings come from the changed health insurance plan and reduced overtime in the Police Department.

Highways & Streets: The Public Works Department— 23% of the total budget— increases by 1.2%. The increase is for: 1) repairs to the grader that should extend its life expectancy by seven years; and 2) sidewalk improvements on Main Street from Seamans Road past Colby-Sawyer College (the entire cost of which will be reimbursed by the Local and Regional Transportation Improvement Fund, paid for by a portion of motor vehicle registration fees).

Solid Waste: The Solid Waste budget increases by 1.2% as a result of reinstating the household hazardous waste collections. Without that expense, the Solid Waste budget would drop by almost 1%.

Recreation: The Recreation budget increases by 7.7% as a result of: 1) increasing lifeguard hours at Bucklin and Elkins Beaches to allow the beaches to stay open later; and 2) replacing sailboats at Bucklin Beach. Without these two expenses, the Recreation Department budget would be down by 1%.

Tracy Memorial Library: The Library budget increases by 4%, mostly to cover building maintenance and computer replacement. At the recommendation of the Capital Improvements Committee, the Library will also seek a $370,000 bond to complete necessary building repairs and improvements.

Wastewater: The Wastewater operating budget, paid solely by sewer user fees, decreases by 3% in 2011. The budget also includes a $5.2 million bond to fund New London’s share of the upgrade of the Sunapee Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Transfers to Capital Reserves: The proposed budget restores some, but not all, contributions to capital reserve funds. Deposits to capital reserve funds increase by 7%, or $30,750, with the increases attributable to new capital reserve funds for Lamson Lane, highway building improvements, and to fix the Town’s GIS maps. The Board of Selectmen voted again this year not to make a deposit into the capital reserve fund for paving gravel roads. The Capital Improvements Plan (CIP available in the Selectmen’s Office) is updated annually by the Capital Improvements Committee made up of representatives of the Planning Board, Budget Committee, and Board of Selectmen. A list of capital reserve funds with year-end balances is in the financial section of the Town Report.

Capital Outlay: Capital purchases of vehicles and equipment also follow the CIP. In 2011, capital purchases include replacing the 2007 police cruiser (originally scheduled for replacement in 2010); replacing the Fire Department utility truck; replacing one of the DPW’s 6-wheel dump trucks with sander; and engineering for Lamson Lane, Elkins sidewalks, and the Pleasant Lake Dam.

Projected Revenue: Despite the lagging economy and cuts in revenues from the State of NH, non-property tax revenues have increased slightly. We have been notified that our share of State Highway Fund will increase, and we will receive revenue from grant funds to offset capital projects.

Join the Discussion! What do you think about the proposed 0.9% budget increase? What do you think the priorities should be for the coming 18 months? Come to the public hearings on the budget at Whipple Memorial Town Hall at 7:00 PM on January 31 and February 14, 2011 and share your thoughts.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s