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September 10, 2013

Atkinson experiences budget problems

Atkinson may go over $4M budget

ATKINSON — Town officials are keeping sharp eyes on spending.

Expenses are higher than anticipated and the town may overspend its $4 million operating budget.

Town Administrator Bill Innes said he expects the town to spend $75,000 over its budget by the end of the year. Town officials already have approved expenditures that were over budget for 35 line items.

“It’s worrisome,” Innes said. “Last year, we went through a budgeting process and we cut the budget in a way that wasn’t in a painful matter. It was more in an arbitrary way. We ended up being underfunded in a lot of areas.”

Rising electricity costs and unexpected maintenance expenses were the primary reasons the town has had to spend so much, he said.

“Last year, we were focused on creating a flat budget,” Selectmen’s Chairman Todd Barbera said. “That was probably the wrong approach. We just need to work with the Budget Committee and educate them on what the impact was of taking that approach.”

Budget Committee vice chairman Bill Smith defended last year’s budget.

“In principle, it is problematic,” he said. “But I don’t have any regrets about last year’s budget. We have some ideas on how to do things better in the future.”

Barbera said this year’s budget provided no contingency plans.

“There are some things you just can’t control and have to deal with,” he said. “ But when you trim the budget so tight, it doesn’t leave us with much wiggle room to deal with variables that may occur.”

Although officials say the budget this year is tight, it is still $73,000 more than last year’s.

This year, the town had to account for emergency repairs to the community center and HVAC units in Town Hall costing more than anticipated.

The town also spent about $15,000 more in electricity costs than budgeted.

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