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Charlestown Budget Reflects N.H. Trend

— Like many other towns across New Hampshire, increases in health insurance costs and contributions to the state retirement system for full-time employees are driving up Charlestown’s preliminary town budget for 2013.

Town Administrator Dave Edkins said the estimated 4.6 percent operating budget increase would likely be trimmed before a public hearing on Jan. 14. The town’s finance committee, an advisory board, will continue reviewing the proposal and look for reductions when it meets on Jan. 7, Edkins said yesterday.

Presently, the proposed operating budget for the fiscal year that begins Jan. 1 is $3.8 million, an increase of $169,000 over the current year.

Edkins said health insurance costs increased 10.5 percent and the town is shouldering more for retirement costs because the state no longer contributes.

“That was a big hit for us,” Edkins said, adding that the retirement costs increases are spread out among the departments.

Administration costs are up about 14 percent, or $42,000, mostly due to the addition of a full-time assessing clerk.

The town office shrank from three to two full-time positions a few years ago and relied upon part-time help to fill in. Edkins said the office would prefer to restore the third full-time employee and rely less on a part-time worker.

The special road projects budget is up $35,000 to $335,000 for drainage work on Depot Street that is being done in conjunction with a similar project on Main Street the state will undertake. There is also $200,000 in that budget for grinding and paving Morningside Lane, which could be changed to a two year project, Edkins said.

About $64,000 is being proposed for health and social service agencies that taxpayers help support each year. The roughly 28 percent, or $14,000, increase is because money for the public bus system operated by the Community Alliance of Transportation Services is part of the proposed operating budget, rather than falling under a separate warrant article. Voters have approved the warrant articles the last few years.

“It has been a practice in Charlestown with outside agencies that if they are approved for three consecutive years it is what the voters want,” said Edkins, explaining why the money was shifted into the town’s operating budget.

Wages for on-call personnel for the fire and ambulance departments is being raised from $8.25 to $10 per hour.

The proposed police budget is up 4.6 percent, mostly due to increases in the health, retirement, overtime and salary line items.

Legal fees are projected to rise $20,000, or 200 percent, to $30,000 mainly as the result of litigation against FairPoint and TransCanada dealing with property abatements, Edkins said.

Most of the other department budgets are at about the same level as the current year, including executive, planning and zoning, library, ambulance and cemeteries.

Also yesterday, Edkins said there are no changes in the town’s potential legal action against former Selectboard member Doug Ring, owner of Ringscape Pool and Spas. The town is alleging Ring cashed a $6,600 deposit from the town earlier this year without delivering a cover for the town’s outdoor pool.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at ogrady56@yahoo.com.