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April 03. 2013 8:41PM

Hooksett voters to decide on $16.3m budget, police commission

HOOKSETT - Voters on Saturday will discuss mandatory recycling, the town's operating budget and the fate of the police commission.

The town side of the tax rate should all warrants pass would be $6.60 per $1,000 of property valuation. Excluding the budget, the warrants would collectively have a 34-cent impact.

The ballot's lone petition, and one of its most controversial warrants, would abolish the Police Commission within 15 days of its passage.

The commission weathered criticism in 2012 for alleged department micro-management, transparency issues and the lengthy search for a new police chief (18 months). Supporters have pointed to the department's recent strides in personnel, productivity and morale, the hiring of a popular new police chief and the commission's success in implementing many of the recommendations of a 2011 audit.

Another controversial warrant is an advisory article to gauge public opinion on establishing mandatory recycling at the curbside and the recycling center "for the purpose of increasing recycling rates to keep fees and taxes lower, by lowering disposal costs." The Town Council could later adopt an amendment to the Solid Waste Ordinances establishing the policy.

Recycling officials have pushed for the warrant to deal with the minority of the public that refuses to recycle, even when at the station. Critics have argued that the recycling center already sees remarkable success and that mandatory recycling risks creating a backlash that could set recycling in general back.

The ballot also will feature a collective-bargaining agreement between the Town Council and the Public Works/Recycling Union. It contains two wage and benefit increases - a total of $37,329 for 2013-2014, and $29,195 for 2014-2015 - and would raise the funds for the first increase, the tax estimate for which is 2 cents per $1,000, or $4 on a $200,000 home. If the article fails, the following warrant asks if the Town Council should call a special meeting to address the collective-bargaining agreement.

Another would remove the town administrator and another town official as "ex-officio" voting members of the planning board. Town Administrator Dean Shankle submitted the warrant, saying he feels uncomfortable holding voting powers on the board as a non-resident.

The proposed 2013-2014 operating budget comes in at $16,388,572, with a default budget of $16,022,113. Items not included in the default budget are $230,416 for the police department for the reorganization of staff, an increase in the number of positions, training funds, fuel increases and the replacement of a cruiser. Also not included in the default budget are 2 percent nonunion employee raises in the amount of $42,270, cable access programming at $40,000, a part-time finance department position at $14,795, and an increase in part-time library hours. The estimated tax impact of the operating budget is $6.26, or $1,252 on a home evaluated at $200,000.

Voters will decide on capital reserve fund appropriations, including a $100,000 warrant for the Building Maintenance Capital Reserve Fund to address the "needs of town buildings for unexpected situations and large projects"; an $80,000 warrant to be placed in the Plow Dump Trucks Capital Reserve Fund to "slowly" upgrade plow and dump trucks; $50,000 to be saved for a future fire department vehicle replacement; and $50,000 for the the Emergency Radio Communication Development Capital Reserve Fund to upgrade the emergency radio system for police dispatch and equipment for the radio towers; and $30,000 to be placed in the Revaluation Capital Reserve Fund to save for the town's 2018 state- mandated property value reappraisals, which is expected to cost $150,000.

The deliberative session of the Hooksett Town Meeting will be held Saturday, April 6, at 9 a.m. in Cawley Middle School.

bclogston@newstote.com


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