Town approves proposed budget for 2017

by Alexa Green | 3/2/17 2:15am

Earlier this week, the town of Hanover voted to approve the proposed budget for fiscal year 2017, following modifications in the municipal general tax rate and social agency funds.

In FY2016, the town had $16,757,539 in total expenditures. FY2017 runs from July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017. Hanover’s total effective revenue for the 2017 fiscal year is estimated to be $16,286,410.

The Hanover finance committee proposes the Hanover town budget every fiscal year. The committee formulates their budget in part by tracking 10 similar towns in the Upper Valley as a baseline for the budget and recommendations.

At the meeting, chairman of the Hanover Selectboard Peter Christie proposed a motion for the board to adopt a general fund tax increase of 1.86 percent. This number refers to the blended rate, which combines the costs of the general municipal services and the fire protection services. The town’s general fund covers the majority of Hanover’s tax-funded departments, while the fire department is allocated a separate fund.

With the increase in the general fund tax rate, taxpayers will go from paying $4.69 for every thousand dollars of their property value to paying $4.78 for every thousand dollars, according to Hanover Director of Administrative Services Betsey McClain.

Town Manager Julia Griffin said that there will be a re-valuation of properties and assessments of realty next year. These calculations will show the real effect on taxpayers, she added.

This municipal tax rate is combined with the individual fire district rate, which is unique to each of the three fire districts in Hanover. District 1 has access to pressurized fire hydrants. Their rate will increase from $1.57 to $1.60, a 1.91 percent increase. The rate for District 2 will go up from $1.37 to $1.39, a 1.46 percent increase. District 3 will see their rate move from 68 cents to 70 cents, which is a 2.94 percent increase.

During the meeting, Christie also questioned the adequacy of Hanover’s social service funding. A variety of social service agencies requested $61,806 in funding.

“By law, the town cannot grant taxpayer money to charity,” McClain said. “If we are using municipal funds, the town can only fund [the agency] if they offer a service that we were originally required to provide.”

Griffin said that Headrest, an organization that assists those facing substance use provides a 24-hour crisis hotline for disorders or are otherwise in need of support and requested $8,000 rather than the previous $10,000 requested last year. She speculated that the organization possibly requested less funding due to a change in leadership and is refocusing its energies as a result. McClain said Headrest may have been granted new money for opioid addiction treatment from other sources.

The five percent increase in social service funding for FY2017 is in part due to the fact that the social service organizations have not received a raise in funding in the last three years. The new 2018 budget adds $3,681 to the social service fund.

“We have a business relationship [with these agencies], and this is meant to highlight the benefit they have given the town,” Christie said.

McClain added that the increase in funding is in recognition that other sources for social service organizations of funding from the state and federal governments is “in flux” and demonstrates an “appreciation of [the organizations’] value.”

Griffin said that there has been a surplus in the general fund over the past two years due to the light winters, which correlates to decreased overtime and winter maintenance. Decreased vehicle and building use has resulted in $25,000 in savings. She said that while the town has not spent a large amount on snow-related expenditures, it did spend more on ice, which balances out the fund.

McClain added that the surplus can also be attributed to vacancies in key positions in certain departments.

Another topic of discussion at the meeting was the former Chieftain Motor Inn property. The property at 84 Lyme Road is currently being renovated for public waterfront access. Hanover is working with the Upper Valley Rowing Club, Lebanon High School and Dartmouth on funding and construction for the property.