The Town Manager and Board of Selectmen are fast tracking an “emergency request” to the State of New Hampshire Department of Revenue for approval to withdraw funds from the Town’s undesignated fund balance to cover the cost to the Town for winter storms. According to Mr. Welch, this past winter’s storms will cause the town to spend approximately $352,000 more than was budgeted in this area.
Mr. Welch also indicated that if this withdrawal is not approved he would have to cut back on a number of programs including reducing the hours the Transfer Station is open, sidewalk repairs and so on. He conveniently highlighted programs that the public is sensitive to, but failed to consider, or at least mention, that a number of budgeted line items including Personnel Administration, Department Head wages (due to turnover), as well as Legal Department outside counsel expenses, Tipping fees and Waste Hauling, when combined, appear that they will be under spent by more than $352,000.
While on the surface it might appear to be reasonable, since the town was caught off guard with the severity of the past winter storms, the magnitude of $352,000 in relation to the budget’s bottom line indicates that this maneuver is premature, probably unnecessary and will result in increased spending over what was approved by the voters.
According to the Finance Director’s monthly report through the end of May, bottom line Town spending is $368,000 under target. In last year’s May report the Finance Director’s indicated that spending was $411,000 less than target. The $43,000 difference is miniscule in the context of the $26,507,096 bottom line of the Operating budget, about 1/10th of 1%, 2014 full year spending wound up with $367,000 unspent.
Given that the snow removal costs have already been paid, why is there is a rush to reimburse the town?
Woolsey, who opposed the motion, made a good point at last night’s meeting with her suggestion to wait until September or October when more spending information will be available. The Finance Director could provide a solid forecast of the full year spending in the fall and at that time, if the issue still appears to be a problem, the Selectmen and Town Manager can seek approval from the New Hampshire DRA.
We see this rush action as a ploy to side step the voters and the Budget Committee, particularly given the chilly relationship between the Board of Selectmen and the Budget Committee.