Town Manager Imposes Indefinite Spending Freeze

Town Manager Kevin Smith informed town staff last week he is implementing a spending freeze on all discretionary spending.

The Town expended about 2 percent more of the budget by March 31 than Smith said he would generally like to see, and the spending freeze will remain in place until he sees spending more in line, under the expenditure level.

“Areas of overage are in legal bills, which historically have been on the high end for the last few years due to a number of issues we have had to use the Town Attorney for,” Smith told the Town Council at their April 6 meeting. “The Fire Department has over the last few years been running over. The number is trending right where it should be for the end of March, but due to a number of injuries and long-term illnesses the department is experiencing, we expect the department to be trending up at the end of the Fiscal Year.”

The Town’s Legal Expenses line was budgeted $174,500; as of March 31, the Town had expended $174,877 of the legal budget, or 100.2 percent.

Other overspent line items include the Town Council’s Miscellaneous Expenditures line; overtime and printing budgeted under the Zoning Board; and repairs and maintenance under General Government, which are overspent by $38,000.

Councilor Tom Dolan expressed concern the Town is going to see an increase in the number of small road repairs that will have to be done this summer.

“I want to make sure we hold enough money in the reserve to fix potholes the town roads will give birth to as the weather gets warmer and we put this winter behind us,” he said.

Smith said the Public Works Department is prioritizing what roads will be repaired most quickly, with Gilcreast Road the obvious choice most recently.

“The highest traffic roads will get highest priority,” he said, noting the New Hampshire Department of Transportation recently informed the Town it will complete road repairs of its own in town this summer.

On the revenue side, the Town is doing well, Controller Doug Smith reported.

The Town has already collected over $300,000 more than the amount budgeted in 2015 under the Building Permits line. In total, the Town collected $531,309, when $225,000 was budgeted.

“If that continues, certainly the news just gets better in that particular category,” the controller said.

Additionally, 100.55 percent of income from departments has been received; and the Town has received 81 percent of interest and costs on late property taxes, with an annual tax payment from Manchester expected to be realized in the full amount, according to the Town Controller.

And finally, due to a large influx of change in land use values for this year, the Town in that transfer will realize just over $250,000 in land use change tax.

“Revenues are really not a problem this year. We’re in really good shape,” Smith said.

Kevin Smith said although revenues are high, they cannot be used to offset expenditures because the Town is authorized by the voters only to spend up to a certain budgeted amount, regardless of income.

Moving forward, Smith said the spending freeze will remain in place as he continues to review the budget with the controller.

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