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March 13. 2013 10:50PM

Voters make no changes to Merrimack town warrant

MERRIMACK - With just 56 voters in attendance and 30 minutes of discussion, residents at Wednesday's annual deliberative session made no amendments to the town warrant.

There also was barely any debate on the eight warrant articles that will be presented to voters on Election Day, April 9, and no changes were made to the proposed 2013-2014 town operating budget of $28,725,477.

Thomas Mahon, town council chairman, said the town budget - if approved by residents next month at the polls - would result in a tax rate of $5.25 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. For a typical home assessed at $300,000, the property tax bill would be about $7,000, with a portion of that - about $1,572 - representing the local municipal taxes.

Although last year's town portion of the tax rate also was set at $5.25, officials explained that because of an additional $12 million calculated for the town's overall value due in part to the new Merrimack Premium Outlets, last year's tax rate was actually closer to $5.14.

Voters also reviewed five collective bargaining agreements that will be placed on the ballot in April. Many of the town's union employees made significant health care concessions in the latest negotiations, according to town councilors.

"The rates have continuously gone up, some years greater than others," Councilor Finlay Rothhaus said of the health insurance costs. "We really strive to have all of the unions match up as best as possible."

Voters will be asked to approve two new collective bargaining agreements reached between the Merrimack Town Council and the New England Police Benevolent Association Local 112 and Local 12.

The three-year agreement with Local 112 would increase the total wages and benefits by nearly $28,000 in the first year, nearly $10,000 in the second year and result in a cost savings of about $13,500 in the third year. The three-year agreement with Local 12 would increase the total wages and benefits by more than $73,000 in the first year, nearly $30,000 in the second year and result in a cost savings of about $28,800 in the third year.

"I want to thank the patrolmen, sergeants and lieutenants," said Councilor Bill Boyd, who explained that although step increases and longevity commitments cost the town more in the first year of the contracts, additional health care concessions by employees would cause significant savings in three years.

Voters also will be asked to approve three other collective bargaining agreements reached with the Teamsters Local 633, the IAFF Local 2904 and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees 93 Local 3657.

Mahon thanked local firefighters for also agreeing to the health care concessions, urging residents to vote in favor of the new contracts at the polls.

Councilor Tom Koenig said he does not support the contracts, as he was hoping to see more health insurance savings prior to the third year, especially because many salary increases are being granted in the first year of the contracts.

Councilor Jackie Flood received a standing ovation Wednesday for her service to the town. She has opted to not seek reelection.

The polls on voting day will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at James Mastricola Upper Elementary School, 26 Baboosic Lake Road.

khoughton@newstote.com


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