Allenstown seeks 2 percent increase to budget

  • The school deliberative meeting at the Armand R. Dupont School in Allenstown gets under way Saturday morning, February 3, 2018. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • The school deliberative meeting at the Armand R Dupont School in Allenstown gets under way Saturday morning, February 3, 2018. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Allenstown school board chair Kris Raymond speaks to the crowd gathered for the school deliberative session on Saturday morning, February 3, 2018 at the Armand Dupont School. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Allenstown town moderator Dennis Fowler listens to a resident speak during the school session Saturday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Saturday, February 03, 2018

With no contentious items on the warrant, Allenstown’s town and school deliberative sessions were over in less than two hours Saturday morning.

Voters made no amendments to March’s warrant. The town is asking for $4,003,181 to cover Allenstown’s general municipal expenses next year, with a default of $3,962,560. The estimated tax impact is 24 cents.

The town’s proposed spending plan is up 2 percent over this year’s budget, in line with the select board’s mandate to keep expenses rising no faster than the Consumer Price Index. Town officials have said that was possible without any reductions in service, thanks mostly to steeply reduced health and property liability rates.

On the school side, the district is asking for $10,077,085 to cover its expenses next year, with a default budget of $9,981,335. The estimated tax impact would be an additional 48 cents if approved.

Kris Raymond, the school board’s chairwoman, emphasized in her presentation that the district’s biggest problem was ever-dwindling revenue.

“We’ve been on a downward spiral for five years and that’s going to continue,” she said.

In part because it is tied to enrollment, state education aid has been steadily declining in Allenstown, which, like the rest of the state, has seen headcounts shrink. But about half of Allenstown’s state education funds come from so-called stabilization aid, which in particular buoy New Hampshire’s most property-poor and low-income communities. Stabilization is being slowly phased out, at a rate of 4 percent each year.

School officials earlier this winter attempted to lobby the area’s lawmakers to help freeze cuts to stabilization.

“There was no empathy from two out of the three state representatives. Particularly Senator (John) Reagan – had no empathy with how the calculation would impact Allenstown,” Raymond said.

Voters in March will also consider a tax exemption aimed at growing the town’s tiny commercial tax base. The exemption, made possible by a state law change last year, would allow businesses to pay a discounted rate on their property taxes. The discount would only apply to the increased value of a property resulting from new construction or some sort of renovation.

Michael Frascinella, the chairman of the town’s economic development committee, said the exemption hopes to win over businesses weary of opening up shop or expanding operations because of Allenstown’s high tax rate.

“What Allenstown needs is some sweetener to get businesses to come in,” he said.

The exemption would last 10 years, but reduce by 10 percent every two years. In the first two years, business owners would get 50 percent off the increased assessment value of their property. The discount would drop to 40 percent in the third and fourth year, and so forth.

Sixty-six voters attended the town’s portion of the deliberative session, and 60 stayed on for the school’s portion. Ballot voting for town and school matters will take place March 13, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., at the St. John the Baptist Parish Hall.