Londonderry’s 2019 fiscal year began on July 1st, and the town budget committee is preparing for their busy fall season.
During last week’s Thursday night meeting, the board’s first order of business to review the third and final version of the guidelines for allocating town funds through the community service grant program. Each year, the base level of funds for this program is set by the town council, and then the budget committee decides how these funds are allocated to each social service agency applying.
Historically, the committee decides to keep fund distribution priorities in the community service grant program similar to previous years, explained Chairperson Kirsten Hildonen, however there is no guarantee that the nonprofit organizations will receive comparable funding each year they apply. As the guidelines explain, “…the needs of the community may change,” thus requiring a change in the allocation of funds. This year, in planning for fund allocation in FY 2020, the committee focused on forming the guidelines to take these possible changes into account. “The big idea is to allow us to become more adaptable to the community,” said Hildonen. The chairperson also noted that the committee wanted to set a “stricter, more clear set of guidelines, and to set a hardened deadline [for applicants]”.
The committee’s next order of business was to decide whether to keep August’s budget meeting or to cancel it in order to attend a planned tour to South School, Moose Hill, and the high school.
These tours occur annually each budget season and are meant to give committee members some background for when it comes time to vote on budgeting issues pertaining to the town’s schools.
“Seeing the schools and where the funding is going and what their needs are… it helps,” said committee member Tim Siekmann, who supported this claim by mentioning the recent asbestos removal and “redoing” of some of the flooring and windows in some of the schools.
“If we all go to Moose Hill, we’d all have a better idea coming into budget season of the space challenges that school is facing,” said Hildonen. The chairperson was referring to the tight quarters in classes at the kindergarten in recent years, and to the portables which are being installed as a temporary solution to this problem. These portables should be up by the time of the planned school tour on Thursday, Aug. 23, said Hildonen. “We’d be able to see the situation that they’re in,” she added.
Siekmann moved to attend the August school tours and cancel the budget meeting and Vice Chairman Alex Rego seconded. Hildonen encouraged the committee to attend as many of the school tours as possible. The committee agreed to make time around their work and school schedules to attend the tours.
The committee anticipates a large turnout for the fall meetings. “There’s the possibility of a number of citizen petitions that want to come before us,” the chairperson said. Siekmann agreed, mentioning a possible turnout by representatives from charitable organizations, referring to the upcoming meetings when the allocation of town funds to social service agencies is voted upon. Stating an additional cause for possibly high future meeting attendance, Hildonen recalled last year’s budget season when Jim Edwards made his case for new lights at Londonderry’s Nelson Road fields and won the support of the committee. “I think his success in… working with us and the town has set a very strong precedent for how people can responsibility do citizen petitions, so I would expect to see some more people wanting to talk to us.”