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Claremont municipal budget proposal would keep tax rate steady



Valley News Correspondent
Sunday, May 05, 2019

CLAREMONT — If a $17 million budget plan for the next fiscal year gets approved as recommended, the municipal tax rate would stay steady.

The City Council is set to begin review this week of Interim City Manager John MacLean’s spending proposal for the fiscal year beginning July 1, which would keep the municipal tax rate at $15.27 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. Councilors are scheduled to vote on the budget on June 12.

The budget represents a spending decrease of about 1.7%, or $290,000, from the current budget.

In his letter to the council, MacLean said department heads held the line on expenditures as he’d asked but they also were asked to identify new projects and staff positions that might be added by the council during budget deliberations.

MacLean highlighted several department spending increases, including $434,000 for paving, which is less than the department request of $750,000 in the streets and road budget.

The fire department budget is down 2.38%, or about $63,000. MacLean said he removed taxpayer funding of public fire hydrants and reallocated some of the money to replace fire department apparatus and the rest to the paving line item. MacLean said in his letter to the council he is shifting $161,000 for hydrant rental to the water department because he does not think taxpayers should foot the bill for hydrants.

The police budget is up almost 6%, mostly due to the cost of the third year of a union contract.

Overall projected revenues come in at $5.9 million, leaving a little over $11 million to be raised by taxes. MacLean also proposed adding $500,000 of the city’s fund balance to the revenue side to hold the tax rate at this year’s amount. Other proposed uses of the fund balance are $100,000 toward the final design work on Pleasant Street and $206,590 for the bond in the city’s downtown Tax Increment Financing district.

The tax impact for the community center comes in at $477,000, which is below the $500,000 threshold the city established when the center opened in 2013.

“This year’s proposed budget includes funding for all negotiated collective bargaining agreements, as well as funds for a modest adjustment for merit plan employees,” MacLean said.

The policy budget which includes the city manager’s pay is up 8.6 % because of a 12% increase in salary and benefits due to the unknown cost of a new city manager, MacLean told the council.

MacLean also noted that since the Legislature began downshifting costs to local communities in 2009 during the recession, Claremont has lost about $9.2 million in potential money from the state. The Legislature cut revenue sharing, its contribution to the state retirement fund and meals and rooms tax revenue. The first year, the city lost nearly $500,000 and for the upcoming fiscal year, the city estimated it will have to absorb $966,000 in lost revenue from the state.

MacLean also mentioned the roughly $36 million in the capital improvement projects budget, with $19 million rated as priority. He suggested the city continue seeking grants and other funding sources other than taxes to “leverage its property tax dollars to the maximum.”

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com.