Public hearing Tuesday night on proposed Hanover town budget

By PATRICK ADRIAN

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 03-28-2023 8:45 AM

HANOVER — Town officials are proposing a $2.1 million spending increase next fiscal year to cover the rising costs of personnel, consumer inflation and anticipated inflation over the next five years.

The Selectboard will hold a public hearing on Tuesday to consider a $34 million operating budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins on July 1.

The proposal would increase the municipal tax rate by nearly 7%, the equivalent to an additional $146 on a $500,000 home.

With board approval, the budget will added to the town warrant for voter consideration at Town Meeting on May 9.

The proposed spending rise is largely attributable to a $1.5 million increase in salaries and wages, which includes $975,000 in pay raises and an additional $30,000 in retirement.

“We have fallen behind competitive market rates for various positions (and) have lost many employees throughout the year, including for better commutes, better wages, and the private sector,” Town Manager Alex Torpey stated in an online budget summary. “High inflation has undercut us further in the last few years.”

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According to the summary, in 2022 Hanover saw the departure of 47 employees but made only 41 new hires, which includes full-time positions and seasonal roles such as summer camp counselors.

The town also seeks a second full-time emergency dispatcher, at $60,000 per year, to provide late-night coverage and an additional $95,000 to add a position in the town clerk’s office and to make the town clerk a full-time position.

Additional clerk office staffing will help to address election compliance duties and Right to Know requests, as well as improve public communication and grants management, according to the summary.

The town also hopes to hire a rental housing inspector to implement a new proposed ordinance, which would require rental housing units to be inspected every three years. This position is expected to be cost-neutral, with the wages funded by revenues raised from inspection fees.

The inspector position was funded in the current year budget but was not filled, because voters need to first approve the rental inspection program. The Selectboard approved the ordinance last October before learning that only town voters could authorize it.

The town also plans to add $3 million in new spending over the next five years, starting next fiscal year, to keep up with a 2% annual growth in inflation While raising taxes may be part of that revenue equation, Torpey said the town should consider alternatives that do not add to the taxpayer burden, such as through adjusting town fees for services or permits or increasing the total number of taxpayers through housing or business growth.

The budget also proposes using $265,000 in funds from the American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPR, for upgrades to office phones, digital technology, electric-vehicle chargers and other items. The town has $935,000 in remaining ARPA funds whose allocation will discussed in public meetings this spring and summer.

The budget hearing will take place at 7:30 p.m. in the Town Hall board room.

Patrick Adrian may be reached at padrian@vnews.com or at 603-727-3216.

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