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Haverhill: Funding OK’d For ‘Silver Tsunami’

Haverhill — After 18 years as town manager, it’s easy for Glenn English to read the mood of voters.

“This was a happy crowd,” which was reflected in the voting, English said after Town Meeting last night.

Every article, including the town’s nearly $3.7 million 2013 budget, passed unanimously, and voters asked just a handful of questions during the 90-minute meeting.

Total spending for 2013, including the budget and articles, comes to almost $3.8 million, a 7.7 percent increase over last year.

The new spending plan includes money for improvements to several town structures, such as the James R. Morrill Municipal Building and the Robert E. Clifford Sr. Memorial Building.

It also represents a change in the way the town’s three on-call fire departments are funded.

In the past, residents in Woodsville, North Haverhill and Haverhill Corner paid a fire-precinct tax in addition to contributing to the departments through the town budget. Now, the fire departments are funded solely through the town.

The purpose of the change “was to spread the funding equally to all the town’s taxpayers because they all receive equal protection,” English told the Valley News last month.

Overall Fire Department spending, about 17 percent higher than last year’s, includes money to equalize firefighters’ pay and finance a replacement truck and equipment.

The 2013 budget also includes an increase in the base pay for police officers, which town officials hope will “stem the loss of trained officers” to nearby jurisdictions, English wrote in the town manager’s report.

Other articles allocated funding for nine nonprofits that provide services to the town, including Horse Meadow Senior Center.

A board member from the center’s parent organization, Grafton County Senior Citizens Council, said about half of Haverhill residents age 60 or older use the center.

Pointing to her own gray hair, Patricia Brady cited the impending “silver tsunami,” which will create an even larger need for the services the center provides, including meals, transportation and continuing education.

Federal and state funding is diminishing as the need is increasing, she said.

Another article included a $5,000 across-the-board increase of tax exemptions for senior citizens. It was the first such increase in five or six years, English said last month.

An increase in mandated costs, such as retirement contributions, and decreases in state funding, including highway block grants totaling $37,000, were expected to raise the town tax rate. To take out some of the sting, the town will tap $200,000 from its unreserved fund balance to offset taxes.

The town will set its tax rate in October, following an assessment process.

The municipal tax rate, currently about $5.17 per $1,000 of assessed value, is expected to rise to an estimated $6.52. Last night, English said the rise could be higher, as construction picks up.

Voters also passed an article supporting a recent proclamation in New Hampshire declaring March 30, 2013, Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day, to honor those who served during the war.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the end of the war, and during the meeting, Moderator Douglas McDonald asked Vietnam veterans to stand. About a dozen men did, to applause.

As part of its 250th celebrations this year, the town will host a three-fifths replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial at the North Haverhill Fairgrounds from May 23-27. In addition to military service people, the memorial also honors police officers and firefighters.

In the town’s only contested race, incumbent Robert Roudebush defeated Daniel Marsh for a one-year seat on the Selectboard.

Those who want to serve the town had a few invitations last night.

Organizers of the 250th celebrations are looking for help, and the town needs volunteers to serve on its advisory budget committee, which meets in December and early January.

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