The start of each year is a very busy time in most towns in New Hampshire. Towns are finalizing budget calculations and preparing information to be presented to Public Hearings and Annual Town Meeting. The budget hearings are held at the beginning of February and Town Meeting is held the second Tuesday in March for many towns.
The budget process is important for all voters in the town because here in New Hampshire the Town Meeting is the body that approves all of the appropriations for the fiscal year. Every voter gets his or her vote on every dollar that is spent by town government.
It can be a daunting task to decipher all of the line items in endless spreadsheets and try to follow along with the operation of departments as diverse as Water Treatment Plants, Police & Fire, and Tax Assessments and Billing. We have a couple of ways to help you understand what we are planning to do during the year and how the money that we are asking you to approve will be used to accomplish those goals.
The first thing we do is lay out the financial information in a packet before the Budget Public Hearing. This is what the cover of the packet looks like:
A hard copy of this packet can be found at the Waterville Valley Post Office in Town Square, and at Town Hall. We also have a link to the packet on our Town Website here.
The budget information that is presented includes the budget as approved for fiscal year 2016 compared to the budget requested for fiscal year 2017.
A summary of all of the department budget requests is on pages 1 and 2 of the packet. Page 2 includes grand totals of all appropriations that we are recommending and an estimate of the total amount to be raised by taxes if all of the requests are approved by Town Meeting. As you can see on page 2, if all of the requests are approved for 2017, the total amount to be raised by taxes will go up by $12,328 or about 0.44% of last years total amount raised by taxes. For a property valued at $500,000 this is an increase of $18.50 in total taxes for the year for Town Budgets only. The School and County portions of your taxes are discussed and approved at other meetings held on different days than the Town Budget Hearing and Town Meeting.
On pages 3 to 7 of the packet we breakdown each one of the department line items in more detail. We show where the money will be spent for personnel wages and benefits, outside services, materials, etc. During the budget hearing we can provide even more detail if there are specific questions on line items.
Pages 8 and 9 of the packet is the Town of Waterville Valley's Capital Improvements Plan (CIP). This plan lays out the major purchases that the Town plans to make over the next six years. To be included in the CIP, a purchase or project is usually over $10,000 in cost and has a useful life of 5 years or more. The FY17 to FY22 Capital Improvements Plan includes road repairs, improvements to the water and sewer systems, vehicle replacements and building improvements. The CIP is developed by the town Planning Board and forwarded to the Selectmen for approval of funding in the current year (that is why the 2017 column of the current plan is highlighted in grey). The only money actually being voted on is what is highlighted.
The final page of the packet, page 10, is a graphical representation of the impact of the planned projects on the total amount of debt the town has and how the estimated debt payments compare year-to-year. The solid lines on the graph represent the projects in the plan. The dotted lines past 2022 represent the total debt and debt payments if no other project were to happen.
Well, this is a lot of information and I'm sure that you will have questions. We will sit down and review all of this information as well as some other financial information during the budget hearing on WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 8th at 6:00 p.m. The meeting is held at the Town Recreation Department Multipurpose Room. If you are going to be out of town for the public hearing and you have a question, please feel free to send me an email with your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Look forward to seeing you at the meeting!