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Police union contract a top concern for Bedford voters

Union Leader Correspondent

March 10. 2014 9:26PM

BEDFORD — A $26 million operating budget and a four-year police union contract will go before voters at the annual Budgetary Town Meeting on Wednesday.

Voters will be asked to approve the Town Council’s proposed $26,020,675 operating budget for fiscal year 2014-15 — an increase of 2 cents per $1,000 assessed property valuation for a projected town tax rate of $4.99, or an $8 increase for a $400,000 home.

The Budgetary Town Meeting takes place at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Bedford High School theater, 47 Nashua Road.

During the budget season, the Town Council cut the proposed operating budget in several areas, including a reduction of $154,000 in insurance costs, applying $100,000 in 2013 surplus funds to 2014 purchases, and increasing motor vehicle and meals and room tax distributions by $181,000. The council also applied funds to the Tax Increment Financing District, which was created in 2010 to identify South River Road property values and tax revenues and to invest in the area’s infrastructure.

“The most impact (on the budget) would be the reduction in debt service payments of $108,000 due to the council moving a portion, $900,000, of the 2013 infrastructure bond issue to the South River Road TIF District. With the $900,000 proceeds moved for funding TIF improvements, the associated debt service payments applicable to those proceeds also moved to the TIF expenses,” said Crystal Dionne, finance director.

In 2014, the Warrant 5 police union contract will cost $3.3 million in annual salaries, holiday pay, educational incentives, retirement benefits, health/dental and life insurance, longevity and uniform allowances — an increase of $194,920 over the previous contract that expired in December, or about 6 cents per $1,000 property valuation. The cost for 2015 amounts to $3.5 million, an increase of $143,668 from 2014.

“The proposed contract costs are included within the council’s recommended budget, therefore, no additional funding is being sought through Article 5. The contract has a re-opener for wages/benefits for years three and four, therefore, we cannot estimate what those amounts or tax impact would be since we have not defined what those benefits are yet,” said Dionne.

The police department budget includes $45,000 to re-establish the capital reserve accounts for the dispatch radio console and communications network, $4,000 for a Smartshot camera system, $41,000 for leasing six cruisers, and $107,684 for two new patrol officers for six months. Funding of $112,000 for full-year positions will appear in future budgets.

The fire department budget includes a reduction of $750,000 for anticipated grants, a reduction of $71,000 for three anticipated retirements from 2013, $354,000 to replace Engine 3 with an offset in reserves of $180,000, $215,000 to replace Ambulance 2 with an offset of reserves of $160,000, and a $100,000 capital reserve deposit for a ladder truck.

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