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From the Desk of
Town Commissioner Chris Staiger

(2/2013) Cold weather and snow – it must be February. The Christmas decorations are finally down and tucked away in the attic for another 10 months - now it’s time to enjoy some peace and quiet! Please remember to be kind to your pets during frigid weather. Make sure they’re warm and have access to food and water if you are away at work. Otherwise, break out the snow blowers!!!

Perhaps the biggest "excitement" in January was Commissioner Glenn Blanchard’s resignation as Board President via an e-mail to the town’s other elected officials on January 8. However, after a visit from Commissioner Tim O’Donnell, Glenn changed his mind the next day and decided to "soldier on." It would certainly be embarrassing for Mayor Don Briggs and Vice President O’Donnell if their ‘palace coup’ fell apart after only three months…

More on point however, the New Year usually sees budget planning get underway for the next fiscal year (FY2014) which begins this July 1. I plan to assess how we allocate staff time and labor - and how we should fund those activities. The reality is that the town’s "business activities" (providing water and sewer service), at more than 16 million dollars, are almost four times greater than its "governmental activities" (maintaining the town’s other facilities and services such as roads, parks and municipal buildings and property).

I want to make sure that all activities are adequately funded by the areas they serve. One revenue stream should not subsidize another. For example, it the town manager spends 70% of his time managing water and sewer issues, then the cost of his services should be funded 70% through revenue from water and sewer charges (collected for business activities), not property taxes (collected to support governmental activities).

We also plan to assess the level of revenue shared by the county and state or collected locally for the next fiscal year. Currently, the state government is considering the restoration of funding cuts from previous years. This could allow us to re-establish some services. We are waiting for the state’s "constant yield" tax rate assessment which will provide some guidance on the town’s tax rate. The largest negative impact on incoming revenue will be the 20% reduction in property values that went into effect last July. This could reduce property tax income by 20% - potentially opening a new budget hole. All of these factors will be weighed over the next few months as we move toward approving a new budget for July 1, 2013.

At the January 23 town meeting, our auditors presented their assessment of the previous financial year’s budget (FY2012). The final budget results yielded an approximate $240,000 surplus – representing a little over 15% of the approved budget. Some of this excess was due to greater than expected revenue sharing by the county and some was due to ‘cost avoidance,’ since we didn’t have to pay for much snow removal last winter. Regardless, the excess monies were placed in the ‘fund balance’ – a pool of unallocated funds commonly referred to as the ‘rainy day fund.’

Most recommendations involved improvements to internal controls so that ‘inconsistencies’ are identified and corrected closer to the time of their occurrence – instead of at the budget’s final reconciliation. In a small office without multiple management layers, this can be a challenge. There is also a large amount of money flowing through the town due to the construction of the new wastewater treatment plant. Budgeted at 18 million, the project requires increased reporting to federal agencies due to their role in providing approvals and loans. We need to do a better job defining an implementing these requirements.

In the final analysis, the auditors’ report represents a positive assessment of our budget planning for the town’s government and business activities as well as our debt burden and financial practices.

You’ll be excited to know that I’ll be sharing more on the town’s budget process as we move into Spring. Please share your opinions by contacting your elected officials at Sincerely, Chris Staiger

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