By Monique Brand
Londonderry Town Council Chair John Farrell advised there is “very little wiggle room” when it comes to its upcoming budget.
On Nov. 6, town officials met for a fiscal year 2023 budget workshop where concerns of continued pandemic challenges, along with maintaining a balanced financial forecast with taxpayers in mind – especially with an aging community as 1,000 properties belong to residents over the age of 55.
Farrell said this particular population is part of the reason for increased calls of service to the town’s fire and police department over the last decade.
Londonderry also has issues to address in the upcoming budget including its continuing water contamination and shortage in revenue.
Farrell added that in the 10 years Londonderry has worked on a default budget the town has been “at or below.”
“It would be more than likely the recommendation of the council [for staff] to continue to hold the line on spending as we go into these inflationary times versus the COVID times last year,” Farrell said at the beginning of the meeting.
Fiscal Year 2022 amended general fund budget was $36.1 million. Town Manager Kevin Smith’s requested operating budget is $36.3 million – an increase of $200,000 or 0.87% .
Smith called the proposed budget the most straightforward in the last 10 years.
“If you saw or heard last year’s budget presentation, it may sound like a broken record but there is not a lot new here,” Smith told town council and staff.
In an effort of a lower tax rate, the budget proposes the usage of the town’s unassigned fund balance for partial funding of contributions to capital reserve funds, expendable and roadway maintenance trust funds and other special warrant articles that may face voters in March.
According to Farrell, about 23% of city taxes “are applied to town services of about 186 miles of road.”
He also said in the last 10 years the town has spent around $15.5 million of fund balance money.
“It’s been used in several ways. It’s been used directly to lower the tax rate. It’s been used on the ballot for infrastructure. It’s been used for projects in town,” Farrell said before challenging town staff to consider not to raise taxes “with as little as we have.”
The morning meeting is part of several months of budget deliberation that will lead voters to a list of spending requests and warrant articles in March.
“Whatever it is that we are budgeting for … gas, energy [which] right now which looks like it is going to double or triple. Let’s take a look at where we’re at today and let’s make sure we’re going to have enough to continue to be able to plow the roads and respond to emergency service calls,” Farrell said.
Another town budget workshop was held on Monday, Nov. 22, and one more is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 6. The first public hearing is slated for Dec. 9 with preliminary warrant approval on Jan. 6
The FY23 budget will be up for a final vote in March 2022.