Harrison budget holds line on taxes

By Gail Geraghty
Staff Writer

HARRISON — Harrison Town Manager George “Bud” Finch presented a budget to the Board of Selectmen Tuesday that holds the line on property taxes for fiscal year 2012.  In doing so he stated, “I will need to absorb increases in education and county tax over which I have no control, deal with reductions in revenue, particularly from the state and implement cost avoidance and productivity improvements measures.”

His goal is to maintain the bottom line mill rate thus delivering a bottom line tax bill equal to the current year on any property without valuation changes.  He states, “Simply put, I propose maintaining the FY11 mill rate of $9.75.

One of the tools he has implemented is an upgrading of the bookkeeping system as it applies to municipal operations.  The changes from FY11 to FY12 on a departmental basis reflect this, shifting expenses such as salary, benefit and utility directly to the departments.

Finch says, “the budget as presented will continue to provide citizens of Harrison with the current level of services.”  Recognizing the Budget Committee and Board could pursue further decreases or increases which ultimately could be approved at the Town Meeting In June, Finch states, “those are policy decisions and I will be prepared to recommend ways to accomplish either but at this point I believe maintaining the mill rate for the same services is a significant gain.”

The Budget Committee for this year has five members, (Matt Frank, Jonathan Washburn, Arlin Bigelow, Ray LaPlante and Colleen Densmore), is diverse and has budget experience.  Finch states, “they will find a budget that is basically line item for line item the same as this past year and should be able to move quickly from the line items to the tougher decisions of long range planning.

Part of Finch’s plan calls for the Board of Selectmen and Budget Committee to change their focus on the budget process from a fiscal year July 1 to June 30 view to a more comprehensive long range view.  If the plan is accepted future boards and committees would take on the added task of working with the Manager and staff to analyze and implement the best way  to meet the wants and needs of the citizens of Harrison in the most efficient, effective and economical manner.

Finch states, “this year’s plan is a foundation for the future, a base line for planning the pathway to an affordable, healthy and vibrant community.”  He also states, “the process is fluid and will be worked with current numbers right up to the day the Town Warrant is posted.  The schedule this year also calls for a joint meeting between the Board of Selectmen and the Budget Committee to be held at the end of April, a public presentation of the final budget at a Selectman’s meeting and what Finch calls a pre-game show on LRTV, all to take place prior to the final release of the warrant.  In addition the warrant will be available to the public no later than a month before the town meeting giving all ample time for review.

The key to this years budget are the following;

Expenses -          Municipal expense down $37,702 or 1.6%

Education expense up $95,207 or 3% (Estimated at this time)

County Tax up $2,729 or less than 1%

Total Budget up $60,234 or 1%

Revenue -         Municipal Operations up $68,234 or 14.2%

Revenue Sharing up $9,446 or 10.7%

Total Revenue up $78,374 or 13.7%

Total Expenses         $  5,873,246

Less Revenues         $     651,428

Less Balance Fwd         $       45,000

Plus Overlay                  $     118,889

Equals Tax Req’d         $  5,295,707

Taxation/Valuation = Mill Rate x 1,000 equals tax per thousand valuation

$5,295,707 / $543,092,700 = $0.00975 x 1,000 - $9.75

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