Benefits, retirement costs account for most of Boscawen’s budget increases
Boscawen’s proposed $3.09 million operating budget is up 2.2 percent from last year’s, largely due to increases in health insurance costs and retirement contributions.
“Health care especially continues to skyrocket, and we struggle to supply that service to our folks that do a lot of hard work for us,” said Craig Saltmarsh, chairman of the board of selectmen.
The increase is about $66,000. Residents will also vote Tuesday on several warrant articles totaling $211,000 that include placing money in reserve funds and contributing to the Penacook Community Center, Boscawen Historical Society and Penacook Rescue. There also are small increases to the police department’s communication budget. The selectmen try to keep costs to a minimum e_SEnD especially in poor economic times – but that means some projects get left on the back burner, Saltmarsh said.
“It’s a juggling contest that we do,” he said. “I can tell you right now (in) the town of Boscawen, we continue to provide the same services, but we sometimes go without equipment and other things like that. When you do that, it potentially gets even worse.”
The selectmen have crafted a solid budget with nothing out of the ordinary, said budget committee member Bill Murphy.
“There isn’t anything that should be a surprise to anybody; the selectmen and the town administrator have really worked very hard to try to keep a level budget,” he said.
Personnel costs are up about $23,000 this year. In that area, health insurance and retirement contributions for town employees come to about $361,000. Since Boscawen is a small town, it can be hard to compete for employees with bigger cities, Saltmarsh said, so the selectmen strive to give town employees a decent benefits package.
The planning and zoning budget is up nearly $50,000 from last year, with most of that coming from a $35,000 software for reassessing property values, which towns are mandated to do at specific yearly intervals. The rest of the increase comes from shifting other portions of the budget to planning and zoning, Saltmarsh said.
In the public safety budget, an almost $17,000 increase is partly due to more money for communications. The department is back up to full staff after a period of time below that, which means more use of dispatch services, telephones and computers.
“Every time they perform a police service or something, it costs money,” Saltmarsh said.
Other increases include an additional $6,000 to the parks and recreation department and $5,000 for future solid waste cleanup. Debt payments decreased by $6,300.
Saltmarsh said the town departments are always careful about keeping spending low. Last year, for example, about $120,000 in budgeted money wasn’t spent.
Boscawen residents will vote on the budget and warrant articles at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Boscawen Elementary School. At the meeting, Murphy will also ask voters to support a resolution requesting the Merrimack Valley School Board provide detailed information on revenue and spending related to the International Baccalaureate program with next year’s school budget.