Claremont City Council approves $18.4 million budget

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 6/23/2022 10:19:10 PM
Modified: 6/23/2022 10:18:51 PM

CLAREMONT — The City Council on Wednesday approved an $18.4 million budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 after adding $505,000 to a paving and sidewalk line item.

The budget represents a 3.1%, or $562,350, increase from this year and carries an estimated municipal tax rate increase of 52 cents. It brings taxes to $15.78 per $1,000 of assessed value, for an additional $78 in annual city taxes on a property assessed at $150,000.

The money for paving will come from a reduction in the police department budget of $105,000 and another $400,000 to be raised in taxes. Mayor Dale Girard said the city can expect another $278,000 with the passage of SB 401, which provides local highway aid.

“That would give us just a hair under $800,000 for paving and sidewalks (next year),” Girard said.

In his initial $18 million budget proposal in May, City Manager John MacLean had no money in the paving line item and instead recommended the city bond for paving the next four years in order to keep the tax rate level. MacLean said the city will be retiring the $3.4 million bond to close the city-owned landfill in 2024, so when the first payment on the paving bond is due that year, there would be no tax rate impact.

“The creative solution offered to achieve this goal ($1 million for paving) without increasing the tax rate is to utilize retiring bond capacity,” MacLean said in his budget report to the city.

But the council, which unanimously approved adding paving money, did not support removing paving from the operating budget and saw bonding as a short-term solution to the necessary annual paving expense.

Girard agreed the bond proposal from the administration for $400,000 six-year bonds in each of the four fiscal years from 2023-26 would have a zero tax rate impact, but he said the city would then face a dilemma. He said the administration’s plan has no paving bond from 2027-29 in order to keep annual debt payments down. The next bond would be in 2030, when the first bond would be paid off.

“I’m concerned about the gap years,” Girard said at Wednesday’s council meeting, adding that having no plan for the paving budget in those three years troubled him.

“I just don’t feel that we should not be investing in ourselves,” Girard said. “We sit here and talk about how the Pleasant Street project was an investment in our community and if we don’t invest in ourselves and try to get streets and roadwork done, we are leaving ourselves way behind.”

Councilor Jonathan Stone agreed. “I think we are doing the responsible thing by going forward and doing it this way,” he said.

A maturing bond in 2024 will lessen the city tax increase, MacLean said. “It does fit within our budget scheme.”

Girard said Thursday that if the city bonded another $400,000 in 2027, it would push the city’s annual debt payments well beyond what they are today, raising the tax rate. But without a bond, the city would have to find about $700,000 for the operating budget each of the next three years for paving.

“I just did not feel it was sustainable,” Girard said of the bonding plan from the administration. “I wanted to look at it long term.”

Other than the police and streets and roads budgets, the council made no other changes to MacLean’s proposal during several budget meetings since May.

The council also approved $516,000 in encumbrances from the current budget for expenses in the next fiscal year including $55,000 for electrical repairs in city hall.

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




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