July 11, 2018WOLFEBORO — Wolfeboro Town Manager Becky Merrow has asked Town department heads for no increases in discretionary spending in their 2019 operating budgets. The various line items may vary at their discretion as long as their budgets are level funded overall, but they are requested to provide a summary of that spending in 2019 relative to their 2018 approved budgets.
According to Merrow's memorandum of June 22, though "economic conditions in New Hampshire and the Lakes Region remain good, with near full employment, ongoing construction activity, and near-record tourism," Merrow says the tax increase of two percent in the municipal portion of the property tax rate this year, combined with the 6 percent increase of the prior year, produced an average growth of 4 percent over the last two years. And that's a trend she cautioned against.
Impacts on the budget that the town has no control over include increases in Employer Contribution rates for the New Hampshire Retirement system and increasing health insurance, Worker's Compensation, and Property and Liability Insurance costs.
Energy costs are also rising with the increases in the per gallon costs of #2 fuel, #1 kerosene, diesel fuel, and regular unleaded. Electricity alone, distributed through the Municipal Electric Department, will remain at the same rate.
On the bright side, the town's debt service costs have been declining since 2016, the year the bond passed for the Town Hall renovation project project and other capital projects. In 2019, the General Fund's debt service costs and the Sewer Fund's debt service costs are projected to decline for a combined savings of $60,215 to the General Fund in 2019.
However, Merrow cautioned that there will be a significant increase during 2021 when payments commence for the library renovation project and "there are increasing calls for the Town to begin to fund its asset management requirements, both for water and sewer assets as well as for other municipal assets, and for incrased funding for the Town's pavement management efforts."
She also expects requests will come up for capital expenditures, and there is a need for some one-time expenditures to fill needed staff positions.
"Continued budget restraint and discipline will again be necessary to met the challenges posed by this budgetary scenario and to avoid having a significant tax rate increase next year," Merrow concluded.