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Dunbarton selectmen approves final $103,000 reduction to 2014 budget

Thursday night, the Dunbarton Board of Selectmen signed off on a final operating budget that reflects a $100,000 reduction residents approved at town meeting.

The board was at odds over the proposed $2.17 million budget – up roughly $103,000 from the 2013 budget – it presented to residents at the meeting March 11. Voters approved an amended sum, slimmed down to $2.07 million.

Selectmen Chairman Ted Vallieres said the reduced number makes sense, since last year the town ran a surplus of $100,000.

“We spent $100,000 less than what was appropriated last year . . . and (this year) we’re increasing the budget by $200,000 over what we spent, and we didn’t need that,” he said. “We only needed another $100,000 above what was spent, and voters agreed.”

The new budget numbers were reached by first resetting all of this year’s sums to match last year’s budget costs, Town Administrator Line Comeau said. Then, the selectmen added the mandatory, uncontrolled costs such as increases in salaries, cost-of-living adjustments and fuel to those baselines. Most of the new budget numbers reflect that formula. Next, the board made additional reductions to get to the necessary $103,000 decrease approved by voters.

The finalized 2014 budget comes in $430 more than the 2013 budget.

The biggest slice came from the general government building budget. That fund requested $128,821 for 2014, but the revised sum came to $79,136, roughly $32,500 less than what the fund received in the 2013 budget, $111,625. That money covers building improvements, lawn care, fuel expenses, electricity, the cleaning of town offices and furnace repairs for five town building locations, Comeau said.

Vallieres said the biggest reduction in that budget came from the government building maintenance line. “If you go back, historically it’s between $20,000 to $25,000. It was bloated to $65,000,” he said. “That’s why it was very easy to reduce that line by $30,000 . . . which is still more than what we normally have had historically in that line.”

The solid waste and disposal budget was also reduced by roughly $20,000, to $206,656, from the requested $226,118. That sum is up about $5,000 from the 2013 budget number, to account for a full-year wage step increase. The department had requested more money this year to paint a vehicle.

“When you have department heads come in and request additional money from previous years and you don’t give them everything they want, it’s only natural some of them will be disappointed,” Vallieres said. “But again, there are two sides to the story. Money has to come from somewhere, and it comes from the taxpayer.”

The fire and highway departments’ 2014 budget sums were not cut and stayed the same as the 2013 budget numbers, at $81,582 and $570,000, respectively.

(Allie Morris can be reached at 369-3307 or at amorris@cmonitor.com.)

Every time I read about reductions in Town budgets I can't help but comment that said reductions equate to reductions in services. If the Police budget was cut, especially at a time when drugs and drug related crime is at a dramatic rise, people best be prepared to see less crime prevention and deterrence and a slower response to emergencies. It is 2014, this is the year that emergency services budgets need to grow to be in a position to best battle the increase in emergencies. If not, be prepared to suffer the results of the lack of growth in emergency service.

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