Berlin faces another tough budget season
"We will have to find a whopping $1.9 million to keep a level tax rate and keep people from getting laid off," Mayor Paul Grenier said in a recent report.
The city manager's proposed budget cuts six full-time employee positions, and still projects a tax rate increase of nearly $4 per $1,000 valuation. The 2012 tax rate was $32.31.
Public utilities account for over 25 percent of the city's $432 million value, with residential land and buildings shouldering roughly 62 percent of the tax burden; commercial properties account for about 12 percent.
The neighboring community of Conway had a 2012 tax rate of $17.61. The Mount Washington Valley town had a total valuation of almost $1.4 billion, with about 68 percent in residential, almost 30 percent commercial, and below 2 percent for public utilities. The two municipalities had almost the same population in 2011 - around 10,000.
At a council meeting last month, City Manager Pat MacQueen said that non-property tax revenues are decreasing, with early estimates on the decrease set at $747,799. On Thursday, MacQueen said that the figure includes a drop of $373,000 in school aid from the state.
Berlin Police Chief Pete Morency has presented a request for $2.9 million, saying that keeping the department budget level-funded would result in the loss of two officer positions.
He pointed to line-item increases that are beyond the department's control, including a higher contribution to the state retirement system.
Increased payments to the retirement system were also cited by school officials, who have presented a budget with an increase of 3.4 percent.
Scott and Genevieve Kelley