Town Council and Budget Committee Review Warrant


The Londonderry Town Council and Budget Committee agreed to recommend most of the items on the 2017 warrant, including the 2018 budget, four union contracts and a communications infrastructure upgrade.

They weren’t so sure about the petitioned warrant articles.

The two boards discussed the warrant in a budget hearing during the Jan. 16 Town Council meeting, and the warrant will now be passed on to voters in the Feb. 11 deliberative session.

Big-ticket items

Both boards unanimously accepted Warrant Article 2, a plan to fund a Communications Upgrade for Police, Fire and Public Works, with a combination of leasing, bonding and Unassigned Fund Balance (see related story).

They spent little time discussing and unanimously approved Article 3, a working town budget for 2017-18. The proposed budget is $32,301,194, lower than the default budget of $32,331,194, and will require the town to raise $18,489,458 in property taxes. Approval of the budget will bring the town portion of the tax rate to $4.86.

Items 4 and 5 are both self-funding, police details at $506,306 and the Sewer Fund at $5,246,992, and both were unanimously recommended by both boards.

The two groups also unanimously approved Items 6, 7 8 and 9, asking respectively for $650,000 for the Roadway Maintenance Expendable Trust Fund, with $487,500 from the Unassigned Fund Balance, leaving $162,500 to be raised through taxes; $164,000, Capital Reserve Fund for Fire Equipment, $123,000 from the UFB, $41,000 to be raised by taxes; Capital Reserve Fund for Geographic Information Systems, $28,000, $21,000 from the UFB, $7,000 in taxes; and Expendable Maintenance Trust Fund, $180,000, $135,000 from UFB, $45,000 from taxation. In addition, the Council and Budget Committee approved Article 10, $100,000 for the expansion of the Pillsbury Cemetery, with $75,000 from the UFB and $25,000 through taxation.

They also approved two warrant items adding to staff, Article 15, $198,545 for two additional police officers and Article 16, $158,070 to add two truck drivers to Public Works.

In addition, they approved Item 18, $35,000 for an engineering study for expanding or replacing the Central Fire Station.


State of the Unions

The Council and Budget Committee also unanimously recommended the following union contracts:

Article 11, Police department employees, first year, $247,571, 2.5 percent cost-of-living increase;

Article 12, Executive Employees Association, first year, $21,169, 2 percent COL;

Article 13, Administrative Employees Association, first year, $43,213, 2.5 percent COL; and

Article 14, International Association of Firefighters Local, first year, $106,107, 2 percent COL.

Town Manager Kevin Smith negotiated the contracts along with Town Attorney Michael Ramsdell, and said that the unions made “major concessions” in health care, allowing the town to bring in the Lumenos program, which will save money. Despite the raises, Ramsdell said, the savings from the health care switch is still a “net positive.”

“They didn’t ask for the sun, moon and stars,” Ramsdell said. “They asked for the sun and some of the stars.”

Another hidden savings to the town, Ramsdell said, is that all six of the town union contracts are approved, and Londonderry will save money in negotiation fees.

Budget Committee member Tim Siekmann asked, “What would happen if all four contracts failed?”

Ramsdell said, “If the health care costs don’t change, the cost to the town will be greater than if it passed these contracts.”


Senior Transportation

The Council spent some time discussing Article 17, which asks voters to raise and appropriate $35,000 for starting its own senior transportation program to supplement CART, the Cooperative Alliance for Regional Transportation. Replacing or supplementing CART has been the focus of several recent Council discussions, with the Senior Resources Committee, director of the Senior Center, a Londonderry resident who is on the CART board, and CART itself.

“Is that enough money?” resident Ted Combes asked in a public hearing.

“I have spoken to many of the seniors,” Councilor Joe Green, the driving force behind the article, said. “CART is not able to fulfill all their needs. I want to put the question on the ballot, and let the voters decide. If they think we need it, they will vote it in.”

“Is there a process in place if it passes?” Combes asked.

Town Manger Kevin Smith said he will delegate the “how” of it to his new assistant, Lisa Drabik. “She’ll figure out the pieces,” he said, adding that the town van, donated by Ford of Londonderry, will not duplicate CART, but supplement it.

Combes observed that in his opinion, “Not enough has gone into this for the public to understand.”

Councilor Jim Butler said, “We don’t have a plan, and that’s not a good business decision. But we want to do everything we can for our seniors.”

The Council voted 3-1 to recommend the article and the Budget Committee voted 1-5 against it.


Kendall Pond and

Litter Pick-Up

The Council expressed doubts about endorsing Warrant Article 23, a petitioned article for $138,000 to improve the Kendall Pond conservation area. The article if approved would appropriate the money from the Unassigned Fund Balance to improve the area. Resident Mike Speltz was the sponsor.

Vice-Chair Tom Freda said he had a problem with taking the money from the UFB. “I think it should come out of the Conservation Fund,” he said.. The petitioners include most of the Commission, Freda said, “and they’re trying to do an end run around us, which is inappropriate.”:

Speltz said he was sponsoring the petition as a private citizen, not as a Conservation member. He said the improvements to Kendall Pond were originally planned for the CIP, or Capital Improvement Plan, but were taken out. “It did not make it into the budget,” Speltz said, noting that improvements to a conservation area “will never be considered ‘urgent.'”

There is about $1.6 million in the Conservation Fund, Farrell said.

Budget Committee Chair Jay Hickey asked if the Commission could choose to spend that money on Kendall Pond without Council approval, and Farrell said yes.

The Council and Budget Committee voted 0-4 and 0-6, respectively, against recommending the article.

They also weren’t crazy about a petitioned warrant article, #19, by resident and Beautify Londonderry chair Mike Byerly to appropriate $100,000 for a roadside litter pick-up. While Byerly said he had new financial information and intended to amend the article to $65,000, board and budget members questioned why it was needed at all.

Byerly said Beautify Londonderry would continue as an entity, but he planned to have his volunteers work on back roads and connector roads. Byerly said the professional crews would focus on major areas where the most litter occurs.

“Maybe in the past the volunteer effort covered everything,” he said, adding that in his opinion, the town and the litter have grown too large.

“We’ve had Beautify Londonderry for 10 years and it hasn’t made a dent,” Byerly said.

Police Chief Bill Hart said in his opinion, education is the best form of prevention. That’s what worked with the hands-free law, he said, and “For the most part, we’ve seen a decrease.”

Article 19 was not recommended by the Council, 1-3 and by the Budget Committee, 0-6.


Other petitioned articles

The Council entered into extensive discussion on Warrant Article 20, extending the town water main to several homes, and eventually crafted its own solution (see related story).

Article 21 asks voters to raise and appropriate $144,000 for constructing Phase IV of the Rail Trail. The Council chose not to recommend, 1-3, and the Budget Committee voted 0-6 not to recommend.

Article 22 asks for $115,000 to replace the lighting on the softball field at Nelson Road. Councilors had a split vote,  2-2, and Budget Committee voted 2-4 not to recommend.

The Deliberative Session is Saturday, Feb. 11, beginning at 9 a.m. in the Londonderry High School cafeteria. Voting is March 14 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the LHS gym.


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