Town Operating Budget Sparks Debate at Deliberative Session

February 20, 2015

by S. Aaron Shamshoyan

The last town deliberative session to be held at the existing Salem High School auditorium is on the books as the building is being renovated over the next few years, yet the nearly 3.5 hour meeting saw fewer than 100 in attendance.

Amendments to article eight, the town’s proposed 2015 operating budget, sparked debate with two amendments being proposed to the $41.75 million article.

First, voters approved adding $15,000 for Rockingham Community Action to the budget.

Following that, Selectman Everett McBride proposed adding $82,800 as the bids come in to repaint the Howard St. water tank.

“The bid came in a little high,” McBride said.  “We have ample finding in the water fund.”

The increase would come from the water reserved fund balance and would not affect the water rate.

Town Manager Keith Hickey said the tank was supposed to be painted every 15 years and it was time for the maintenance.

“We need to repaint the outside, which is what this money is proposed for.”

The budget currently has $450,000 for the project Hickey explained, adding the bid came in at $532,800.  The amendment passed.

Selectmen’s Chairman Pat Hargreaves sought an amendment to article 13, winter weather operations, doubling the total amount to $500,000 as a result of the continuing snowstorms.

“We had a little snow storm a couple weeks ago and a little more snow coming up this week,” Hargreaves said.

Director of Public Works Rick Russell said the money was needed to get though this winter and make it till January 2016.

“Over the past 11 days we’ve had over 60 inches of snow,” he said.  “It’s kind of drained our resources.”

Russell said the town’s road salt supply needed to be replenished and that would require spending much of the funds.

“We’re going to be over $200,000 just to replace our materials,” he said.  The funds would come from the unreserved fund balance.

The amendment was approved and moved to the ballot.

Voters also approved adding $318,450 from the unreserved fund balance to article 14, the 2015 road construction article.

This is the first year recently bids were not favorable and above the proposed amount.

All articles will appear on the March 10 ballot for election day.