Proposed Allenstown budget up by 1 percent

Monitor staff
Monday, November 28, 2016

Allenstown officials will once again present a nearly flat-funded town budget to voters in March.

The select board is recommending a $3,924,683 budget for the 2017 fiscal year. That’s just $38,858 more than what the town appropriated for expenses this year, or a 1 percent increase.

The municipal portion of the tax rate for 2016 is $11.36. According to a town budget analysis, the projected tax rate increase attributable to town spending for 2017 is 11 cents per $1,000 in property value, though the actual increase will not be determined until October 2017.

Following the select board’s directive to keep spending increases below inflation, town officials cut spending where they could and did not earmark much to long-term capital projects, Town Administrator Shaun Mulholland said.

Many employees will see their wages stay flat, he said, and the town will switch to a cheaper health insurance plan with higher deductibles for employees.

“We’re just funding operations; we’re not doing much to get ahead,” he said.

The proposed budget increases personnel spending by $22,635, police spending by $9,062, and finance department spending by $49,217. The parks and recreation department budget would also increase by $15,410 to account for operating the town’s new community center.

Thanks to a new billing system directing more ambulance fee revenues to town coffers, Allenstown will reduce spending on its ambulance services by $15,669. It will also reduce spending on its welfare coordinator by $15,437.

Allenstown residents envisioned potential improvements to the town earlier this year with the help of a redevelopment nonprofit. But the town won’t act on any of those ideas for at least another year, Mulholland said.

“We just don’t have the funds to do anything in (fiscal year 2017),” he said, adding that sidewalk and roadway improvements were tentatively planned for 2018.

A school district budget will be presented to the budget committee in mid-December.

Voters should also expect to see a warrant article for a $1.6 million bond to pay for a new sewer pump station on Library Street behind the Suncook Pond apartments.

The sewer pump station would replace a several decades-old pipe currently piping sewage from Allenstown under the Suncook River into Pembroke.

“We believe that at some point that pipe could fail and leak sewage into the Suncook River,” said Sewer Department Superintendent Jeffrey Backman, adding that the pipe was still functioning properly.

The pipe should also be replaced, Backman said, because it commingles Pembroke and Allenstown sewage before arriving to the treatment plant, making it difficult to know if the towns are being billed correctly for their share of sewage.

The Sewer Department currently believes it will be able to pay the bond back without raising rates, but that could change, Backman said. Updated numbers will be available in January.

The Allenstown budget committee will hold a public hearing on the budget and all warrant articles Jan. 14. A deliberative session is scheduled for Feb. 4, and town meeting is March 14.

The town’s proposed budget is available on the town’s website at allenstownnh.gov.

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