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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Hudson budget proposal lower than current plan

HUDSON – A proposed $28.28 million operating budget for the coming fiscal year is $100,000 lower than the plan on which the town is running now, meaning the town’s share of the tax rate will remain stable, officials said Thursday.

During a public hearing, the Budget Committee recommended passage of the spending plan proposed by selectmen, who said they remain cognizant of the lingering recession and its impact on residents.

“It reflects the board’s feeling that there is a need to provide some relief to taxpayers given the current economic conditions,’’ Selectmen Chairman Ken Massey said.

Officials said if voters reject the proposed budget at Town Meeting in March, the town would operate under a default budget of $28.38 million, the same as this year’s spending plan.

Massey said if voters approve the proposed plan, plus seven warrant articles selectmen are backing, the town’s share of the tax rate would be $5.21 per $1,000 of property valuation, an increase of 4 cents per $1,000.

Among the articles selectmen are recommending is a $12,374 appropriation to cover a 3 percent salary increase for full-time employees at the Rodgers Memorial Library.

Library workers haven’t had a pay raise in three years, officials said. The Budget Committee previously voted not to recommend the raise, but some members changed their minds Thursday and the panel voted 6-5 to support the increase.

The committee isn’t backing a new contract recommended by selectmen for the police, fire and the town’s supervisors union. The proposed agreement provides no salary increase this year, but contains a 2 percent raise in 2012-13 and 3 percent increase in 2013-14.

The proposed agreement contains concessions made by the union in health insurance costs and caps the amount of earned time that employees can accumulate, Massey said.

Earned time allows employees to build up paid hours based on longevity that can be used by workers for personal reasons or be tacked onto retirement benefits, officials said.

Selectmen are still negotiating contracts with the police, fire and support staff unions and hope to incorporate similar concessions into those agreements before they’re presented to townspeople for consideration, Massey said. Officials will also ask voters to approve $88,000 to replace three defibrillators on the town’s ambulances. The devices now on the ambulances are 8 years old, according to the Fire Department.

Another warrant article asks residents to approve $150,000 for the design of a dual-use senior center/community television facility at Benson Park. Selectmen say $50,000 would come from the Senior Center Capital Reserve Fund, $50,000 from the community television building capital reserve fund and $50,000 from the unreserved fund balance.

No money would be spent until the site is approved by the state Department of Transportation, Selectman Shawn Jasper said.

Voters will be asked to appropriate $1,876 to provide a 3 percent salary increase for the town clerk/tax collector.

Selectmen are recommending against approval of a fact finder’s report that would give the support staff pay increases of 3 percent in 2012 and 2013.

Massey said the board believes the fact finder “missed some salient points on health care.’’

Residents will be able to motion for budget changes at the town’s Deliberative Session on Feb. 5 at the community center.

Tom West can be reached at news@nashuatelegraph.com.