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$14 million school renovation plan before Goffstown voters

GOFFSTOWN - Voters will consider increases in both town and school budgets, as well as a $14 million school district renovation project when they head to the polls Tuesday.

Should both budgets and all warrant articles pass, the resulting property tax increase is expected to be $1.46, or about $365 on a $250,000 home.

Both budgets address mandatory increases in benefit costs, as well as a downshifting of retirement costs from the state, said Budget Committee chairman Peter Georgantas.

"Considering the circumstances, I don't know what else we could have done," Georgantas said, though more budget cuts could have led to a reduction of positions by department heads.

"We don't cut positions; we cut dollars," he said. "We don't have the authority to cut positions."

On the town side, if voters approve the $19.3 million budget and all special articles, they can expect a tax increase of 23 cents per thousand dollars of assessed home value.

Article 12 asks voters to approve a collective bargaining agreement for DPW workers, which will cost $30,208 its first year.

Articles 13, 14, 15 and 16 will have no tax impact, because funding will come from a combination of the town's fund balance, impact fees and grant money.

Approximately $819,069 of the town's unassigned fund balance will be used.

According to the 2013 Voter's Guide sent to residents, selectmen recognized that several capital improvements were put off over the years and took the advice of the town's auditors to spend down some of the fund balance for critical, one-time expenditures.

Article 13 sets aside nearly $277,000 for the purchase of computer software for town offices. Article 14 asks for 169,000 for police department software. Article 15 requests voters to expend $120,000 for the repair of a culvert on town land. Article 16 sets aside $761,000 for improvements at Main and Pleasant streets, and Main, Elm and High streets, though some of that money will come from impact fees and grant funds.

The design could include the construction of a third town roundabout at the intersection of Main and Pleasant streets.

Article 17 requests $75,000 to be put into the Fire Apparatus Capital Reserve Fund.

Articles 18 and 19 seek to establish revolving funds for purposes currently in the budget - PEG TV and Police Special Detail.

Should those articles pass, the operating budget will be reduced on both the expenditure and revenue side of the budget.

Article 20 asks voters for $20,000 to support the Main Street Program, and a petitioned warrant article, Article 21, seeks $20,000 for the support of Crispin's House, a youth services program.

The tax impact of the school district's $37.3 million budget is an estimated increase of $1.03 per thousand dollars of assessed home value.

The budget includes several mandated costs, including $419,000 in increased retirement costs, $153,000 in increased health care costs, as well as $200,000 for a new roof at Mountain View Middle School.

If voters pass a $14.5 million bond request for improvements at Maple Avenue and Bartlett Elementary schools in Article 2, 20 additional cents can be added to the tax rate, with an additional 71 cents per thousand in each subsequent year of the 20-year bond.

Georgantas said the 71 cent figure is confusing, however.

"The average cost of the bond is 71 cents, but the first year is 90 cents, then it works its way down," he said. "It doesn't get to the 71 cents until year ten."

Article 4 will ask voters to approve the establishment of a contingency fund for unanticipated costs and emergencies.

In Article 5, voters will consider a new Authorized Regional Enrollment Area (AREA) agreement among Goffstown, New Boston and Dunbarton, which expires in 2014.

Dunbarton voters will have the option of choosing between Goffstown and Bow AREA agreements at their School District Meeting on March 16.

Should Dunbarton form an agreement with Bow, school district figures have shown as much as a $2.3 million loss of revenue for Goffstown.

"If Dunbarton leaves, it is going to affect budgets in future years," Georgantas said.

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