By Alex Malm
The Londonderry Town Deliberative Session took place on Saturday, Feb. 5 and 69 voters attended the meeting and moved 20 articles foward to the March ballot.
The first warrant article sent to the ballot was Article 2, the operating budget. This year’s budget is $38,996,68. If the warrant article is defeated, the default budget will be $39,069,640 which is the amount of the appropriations contained in the operating budget authorized for the previous fiscal year, with certain adjustments required by previous action of the Town or by law.
If passed, the Town will need to raise $21,124,977 in property taxes, resulting in a tax rate impact of $4.099 per $1,000 in property value.
Article 3 asks voters to approve the Town raising and appropriating $180,000 to be placed in the Town’s Expendable Maintenance Trust Fund for the purpose of repairing and maintaining town facilities and infrastructure. $90,000 would come from the June 30 Unassigned Fund Balance.
If passed it would mean that the Town will have to raise $90,000 in property taxes, resulting in a tax rate impact of $0.017 next year.
A question that was asked was how much they currently have in the Trust Fund.
Londonderry Finance Director Justin Campo said that currently they have $162,000.
Article 4 was asking voters to approve the Town raising and appropriating $650,000 to be placed in the Roadway Maintenance Expendable Trust Fund was moved to the ballot.
If approved, the article will require the Town to raise $650,000 in property taxes, resulting in a tax rate impact of $0.126 in FY 2023.
The article was then moved to the ballot without much discussion.
Article 5 was also moved to the ballot and will ask voters to approve the Town raising and appropriating $100,000 to fund legal and consulting expenses related to the possible expansion of the existing public water system and/or the creation of a public water system owned by the Town.
“This funding is necessary to study the rates such a public water system would be able to offer, and to compare such rates with those offered by other utility providers operating in town,” the warrant article states. “These funds will also be used to study the potential costs of acquisition of existing utility infrastructure by the Town, potential costs of adding necessary infrastructure, potential expenses related to remediation of water contaminated by PFAS and other contaminants, and the potential costs to provide potable water to Londonderry’s residents at reasonable rates. This special warrant article will be a non-lapsing appropriation per RSA 32:7, VI and will not lapse until the earlier of the completion of its purpose or June 30, 2027.”
Article 6, the Fire Department Capital Reserve Fund warrant article, will raise funds to help purchase equipment and to help provide matching funds for grants they may look for.
The warrant will ask voters to approve raising and appropriating $100,000 to be placed in the Fire Equipment capital reserve fund and to authorize the use of $50,000 from the June 30 Unassigned Fund Balance to go towards the appropriation.
Article 7 asks voters to approve raising and appropriate $75,000 to be placed in the Pillsbury Cemetery Expansion Capital Reserve Fund was moved to the ballot during the Deliberative Session.
It was explained that it would allow for the Town to plan for the expansion of the cemetery without having a burden on the taxpayers during any particular year.
Article 8 is related to the Technology Capital Reserve was moved to the ballot during the meeting. The Warrant article will ask voters to vote on whether or not they approve the Town establishing an “Information Technology Capital Reserve Fund under the provisions of RSA 35:1 for the purpose of maintaining and upgrading the Town’s information technology needs and infrastructure, including cyber security.”
It will also ask voters to allow the Town to raise and appropriate $100,000 to be placed in the fund.
Article 9 will establish a Recreation Revolving Fund. The warrant article will ask voters to approve raising and appropriating $1,000 to establish the fund. The fund will ultimately create an account to allow for funds from fees and charges for recreational park services and facilities as well as any donations to the Recreational Revolving Fund to be placed in it. Money from the funds would only be used for recreational purposes.
One question was asked if they have any other funds that are protected like the one being proposed. Campo said that the Police Detail Fund and the Sewer Fund are.
The warrant article was moved to the ballot.
Article 10 will ratify a new collective bargaining agreement reached between the Town of Londonderry and the International Association of Firefighters Local 3160 was moved to the ballot.
If approved the Town would need to raise an additional $86,623 in property taxes in 2023 resulting in a tax rate impact of $0.017 in FY23.
Article 11 allows the Town Council to have a special meeting if the fire contract warrant article isn’t approved. That article was also moved to the ballot.
Article 12 will ask voters to approve, discontinuing and dissolving the Eco-Industrial Park capital reserve fund was sent to the ballot during the Deliberative Session.
If approved the $32,800 that is in the fund would be transferred to the June 30th unassigned fund balance.
Artilce 13 will be asked to approve the Town to raise and appropriate $32,800 for the future updating of the Master Plan after the warrant article was moved to the ballot during the Deliberative Session.
The funds will be placed in the Master Plan Capital Reserve Fund. The funds will come from the unassigned fund balance.
Town Councilor Deb Paul asked if they currently have enough funds for the master plan. She was told no. Town Planner Colleen Mailloux said that they hope to bring a consultant on board in the spring and then start the process in the fall.
Article 14 will have the Town raise and appropriate $32,500 to be placed in the Cable Equipment Capital Reserve Fund after the warrant article was sent to the ballot during the Deliberative Session.
The funds would come from the annual distribution of Public Educational and Government Access programming from the current Franchise Agreement.
Article 15 was sent to the ballot asking voters to authorize the Town Council to execute a lease with the Londonderry School District where the Town would lease to the School District certain property adjacent to Town Hall for purposes of constructing new School District Offices, for a term of 30- 75 years, and for nominal rent.
It will also ask voters to approve raising and appropriating $300,000 for the Town to contribute to the construction of the new School District Offices and directly related expenses such as landscaping or reconfiguring the Town Hall complex.
The funds would come from the unassigned fund balance.
A second warrant article related to the school district office will ask voters to restore the site of the former School District Offices at the Town Hall complex to a safe, landscaped, sightly condition if the Londonderry School District and the Town do not agree or are unable to return the District Offices to the Town Hall complex and further to authorize the $150,000 from the June 30 unassigned fund balance was moved to the ballot.
This special warrant article will be a nonlapsing appropriation per RSA 32:7, VI and will not lapse until the completion of restoring the site of the former School District Offices at the Town Hall complex to a safe, landscaped, sightly condition or by June 30, 2025, whichever is sooner.
Article 17 was then discussed and was related to the property at 35 Gilcreast Road.
The warrant article will ask voters to vote to authorize the release of a conservation and open space restriction on approximately 23 acres of land at 35 Gilcreast Road, which is currently owned by Gilcreast Realty Holdings for consideration to be paid to the Town of Londonderry for no less than $2.650,000.
It was explained that the conservation easement came about in 2002 when the Town paid $1,230,000 for it.
One question that was asked by resident Chris Paul was how they can get around selling the easement when the town had already voted to buy it previously.
It was explained by Assistant Town Solicitor Mike Malaguti that the way the easement works is it allows the Town people to vote to amend the restriction.
He said that even if the warrant article passes the Town isn’t obligated to sell it and it would need to go to the Town Council and Conservation Commission still for them to weigh in.
Malaguti said it ultimately allows people in Town to decide whether or not they want to move forward with it.
Conservation Commission Chair Marge Badois said that they haven’t officially discussed it yet.
Article 18 will ask voters to approve the Town putting $750,000 in the Conservation Commission’s Land Acquisition Fund to be used in a reasonable amount of time to replace the 35 Gilcreast Road property. The funds would come from the release of the conservation easement and open space restriction.
One warrant that drew a proposed amendment was in regards to the speed limit for Town roads.
Article 19 will be a non-binding question asking voters if they think they should reduce the speed limit for the roads from 35 MPH to 30 MPH.
Londonderry Police Chief William Hart Jr. explained that every quarter when they have their Traffic Committee meetings one of the biggest concerns brought up is speed in town.
He said that they thought this would be a good time to see if the voters think they should reduce the speed for Town owned roads only.
“This is just a temperature taken of the Town,” said Hart.
Hart said that in order for the change to happen it would require a traffic study and for the Town Council to vote on it.
One amendment made was to ask voters if it should be 35 MPH which ultimately failed.
The warrant article was moved to the ballot.
Article 20 drew some discussion in regards to pickleball engineering work. The warrant article will ask voters to approve raising and appropriating $6,000 for engineering fees for a conceptual design summary outline for pickleball courts, tentatively at 94 West Road or another suitable location.
A proposed amendment during the deliberative session was to have the money come from the unassigned fund balance instead of having the funds being raised from taxes.
Town Councilor Deb Paul said that she was concerned about using the funds from the unassigned balance.
The amendment ultimately failed 18-30 meaning the original warrant article was sent to the ballot.
The Town election is scheduled to take place on March 8 at the High School gymnasium.