City Council to take up budget, utility rates

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 11/29/2021 9:33:57 PM
Modified: 11/29/2021 9:33:50 PM

LEBANON — Taxpayers would see a modest 2.5% increase in municipal taxes next year under a $68 million city budget proposed by City Manager Shaun Mulholland, though water and sewer rates continue to increase to pay off the debt on the long-running effort to separate sewer and stormwater systems in Lebanon.

The City Council on Wednesday will hold a public hearing on the utility rates, which include an 8% increase for water and a 7.2% increase for sewer, the same level of increases approved last year.

“It’s debt service,” Mulholland said of the rate increases.

He noted costs are associated with the combined sewer-outflow project, an upgrade at the water treatment plant, and rehabilitation of the main sewer “interceptor” line in the city.

As for the overall budget itself, the City Council is expected to hold a public hearing and take action on the spending plan at its Dec. 15 meeting.

The proposed general fund budget of $36.4 million amounts to a 2.75% spending increase, driven largely by a 3% general wage increase for city employees, a 5.6% increase in health insurance costs and increases of between 6.4% to 25.9% in what Lebanon has to contribute to the New Hampshire Retirement System, according to a budget overview from Mulholland.

“That’s a big driver,” he said of retirement costs, while noting that the salary increases were also a factor. “Obviously, we are in a competitive labor market like everybody else,” Mulholland said.

The proposed police budget would increase 10.8% overall, to $6.9 million, and Police Chief Phil Roberts said rising wages through the police union contract and pension payments were the biggest factors.

Roberts said the budget includes funding for a school resource officer, given that the School Board had voted to keep the position at least through the 2021-22 school year.

The $68 million total budget, which would mark a 9.1% increase in spending, includes $14 million in capital improvements, ranging from reconstruction of the Miracle Mile and airport terminal work, much of it federally funded, to reconstruction of Kimball Street off Route 120 in downtown Lebanon.

If the budget is approved as proposed, the city portion of the property tax rate would increase by 25 cents per $1,000 of valuation to $10.31, or $63 on a home assessed at $250,000.

Assistant Mayor Clifton Below said the budget attempts to maintain wage levels and benefits and said the rate increases for water and sewer were part of the long-term effort to upgrade that system.

“That’s, unfortunately, higher than we’d ideally like to see, but it reflects what we are needing to spend to maintain the infrastructure,” Below said.

The City Council meeting on Wednesday starts at 7 p.m. in Council Chambers in City Hall or is also viewable virtually via www. lebanonnh/gov/live.

John Gregg can be reached at jgregg@vnews.com or 603-727-3217.




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