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Derry council told budget cuts not deep enough

Union Leader Correspondent

May 07. 2013 8:02PM

DERRY - During budget review sessions over the past several weeks, the Town Council approved a number of cuts to Town Administrator John Anderson's proposed $37,143,566 fiscal year 2014 budget.

However, the council also overrode Anderson's proposal to cut the Taylor Library's $176,000 budget, meaning the overall budget has only been cut by $14,956.

For a number of residents, including several former town councilors, those cuts do not do enough to help lower the town's property tax rate.

Former councilor Kevin Coyle said many people speak about how the school budget accounts for nearly two-thirds of the tax rate and how the increases on that side are far more drastic than those on the municipal side of the budget. However, with Derry having the highest property tax rate in southern New Hampshire, Coyle said the town should not settle for any increase on the town side.

"Derry's tax rate is proposed at $10.49," Coyle said, noting that many surrounding towns have far lower rates. "We are double some of our neighbors, and that is nothing to be proud of. To say we are only going up 9 cents (on the municipal side) on the highest tax rate in southern New Hampshire is a problem and that's how you have to look at it."

To keep taxes low, Coyle said the councilors have to make difficult decisions in the budget.

Several of the items included in the proposed budget were a concern to Coyle, including leases for 11 new police department vehicles, money for economic development and the salary for the farmers market director.

Coyle said the town has done nothing with downtown economic development for years. This year, the council cut the $50,000 proposed for economic development by $20,000.

"We've been wasting money year after year," he said. "You were gracious enough to cut $20,000, but there's still $30,000. What's the plan, what are you going to do with that money?"

Resident Kelly Martin said she was concerned that Town Clerk Denise Neale was cutting her own salary in order to bring in part-time help when the town was still budgeting for the farmers market director and economic development.

Resident John Burtis called for the town to take a harder look at potential cuts and also to consider more consolidation of town services.

"The idea that you are going to forever be increasing tax costs in a time when no one has any money does not make any sense," Burtis said.

Former councilor Janet Fairbanks' biggest concern was the $20,800 budgeted for the farmers market director. She said she wanted an accounting of the hours worked and duties performed by the director.

Fairbanks said she was initially behind the idea of the farmers market and believed the director would hold the position earning a much smaller stipend. Instead, she said, the cost of the position doubles the revenues brought into the town by the market.

"As a taxpayer and someone behind this 100 percent, I do not want to pay another dime at this cost," she said.

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