Allenstown insurance savings limit potential budget increase

  • Allenstown Fire Rescue Department truck. Aug. 26, 2017. ELIZABETH FRANTZ

Monitor staff
Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Allenstown’s proposed budget for next year is up by just 1.89 percent.

All told, the town’s departments are asking for just under $4 million to operate services next year, which is $74,153 more than this year.

A property-poor town with perennially one of the state’s highest tax rates, the select board has for some years instructed staff not to exceed the Consumer Price Index – a measure of inflation – when proposing budgets for the following year.

The town is proposing small cuts here and there – including a $6,000 reduction in paving – in order to stay below a 2 percent increase. But big decreases in both health and property liability insurance rates for next year ultimately saved the town from having to make any really tough decisions, according to officials.

“We were originally looking at a 3.3 percent increase,” said Town Administrator Shaun Mulholland.

The town switched over to cheaper health insurance with higher out-of-pockets costs last year, and it filed fewer claims. Next year, health insurance rates are set to go down 10.8 percent. Property insurance will go down 10.2 percent, Mulholland said.

“There won’t be any reductions in service, and that’s because those insurance rates went down,” he said.

Next year’s budget also reflects some personnel changes. After then full-time fire Chief Dana Pendergast’s sudden departure over the summer, the town contracted with MRI, a consulting firm, for a part-time chief while it looked for a permanent solution. It initially pitched sharing employees with nearby towns – Pendergast had also been Allenstown’s health officer and building inspector – but couldn’t find any takers, Mulholland said.

The town has since signed a one-year contract with Shawn Murray, the MRI consultant, to stay on as a part-time chief at $35.25 an hour. It’ll maintain coverage with more money for per-diem firefighters. In total, the fire department’s budget is set to increase by $47,056 next year, according to budget documents.

The town just began advertising for a part-time building inspector and health officer.

A part-time assessing clerk who retired wasn’t replaced, and those services have now been contracted out to Avitar Associates of New England, a Chichester-based company.

Other notable increases include an additional $21,740 in the executive budget for a new records management system and salary increases, and $5,293 in the police budget, also for salary bumps, according to documents.

The ambulance budget, on the other hand, is going down $10,406 because Pembroke will pay a greater share of the towns’ combined service and because insurance payments are coming in above projections.

The select board will continue to review budget requests from department heads through October. The budget committee will begin looking at the town’s proposal Nov. 9.

(Lola Duffort can be reached at 369-3321 or lduffort@c monitor.com.)