Claremont City Council to review $18M budget

By PATRICK O’GRADY

Valley News Correspondent

Published: 05-08-2023 8:53 PM

CLAREMONT — The City Council will begin review of City Manager Yoshi Manale’s $18.72 million budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 at its May 10 meeting

The operating budget represents a decrease from the current $19.16 million budget but only because Manale, in his first budget proposal as city manager, separated the operating and capital budgets.

The proposed capital budget is $2.8 million with $620,000 coming from the city’s surplus fund and $2.18 million in a bond that would be used solely for street paving to add to the $600,000 in the operating budget for “preventative maintenance” of streets, sidewalks, bridges and culverts,” Manale said in his budget proposal.

“This year we have put together a robust and comprehensive three-year paving plan to address needed street improvements around the city,” Manale wrote in his budget introduction. “We aim to slowly address the years of neglect to our side roads with in-house paving and outside contracts.”

Surplus funds will also be used to change the fire station to accommodate female firefighters and to replace elevators in the opera house and police department. Manale also noted the $106,000 expense decrease with the privatization of the transfer station operation as of Jan. 1.

Manale projects $12.28 million will be raised by taxes and with a property reassessment this year, his budget has an estimated grand list of slightly more than $1 billion, the first time it has exceeded that threshold. The new assessed value would drop the estimated municipal tax rate from $15.78 to $11.31 per $1,000 of assessed value, Manale wrote. According to the budget presentation, city property is currently assessed at 56% of market value and the estimated tax rate is based on an average property assessment increase of 44%. The tax rate will be set in the fall by the New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration.

Manale stated in his budget that he will stop the past practice of using surplus funds to keep the tax rate lower.

“It is best practice to use fund balance for expenditures such as capital expenses or other one-time spending,” Manale wrote. “Using it to lower the tax rate does not reduce the city’s obligations but pushes the necessary tax increase to future years. It also discourages the city from investing in infrastructure and employee retention.”

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The budget includes negotiated union and non-union pay increases, which still need council approval. Manale said the increases will help the city retain staff in an “ultra-competitive market.” He noted many employees assume additional duties to save the city money, while others leave for better paying jobs in surrounding communities.

“The city hopes that this investment in our employees will encourage more of them to stay here by providing a better work/life balance and quality of life that show we appreciate their hard work,” he wrote.

New positions proposed by Manale are a part-time employee in the city clerk’s office, an assistant for building and maintenance and an assistant director of parks and recreation. The budget eliminates the $18,000 city subsidy to the Arrowhead Recreation Club that helps support winter activities at the city-owned Arrowhead skiing and tubing hill.

The city and the Arrowhead Recreation Club are continuing negotiations on a new lease for Arrowhead that would make room for The Wheel House bike shop inside the Arrowhead lodge.

The council will begin reviewing department budgets at the May 10 council meeting, which begins at 6:30 p.m. in City Hall.

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

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