By John Toole
---- — WINDHAM — Selectmen are proposing a town budget of nearly $13 million, up almost 4 percent over the current budget.
Residents can weigh in at a public hearing before selectmen Monday night.
The spending proposal represents a 3.64 percent increase over last year.
As proposed, the budget would mean almost 16 cents would be added to the tax rate, now at $23.05 per $1,000 of valuation. That would equal $55.65 more in taxes for a home valued at $350,000.
That could change, depending on voter decisions at Town Meeting or developments during the year affecting property valuation or revenues. Selectmen could even make a difference heading to the town deliberative session Feb. 9.
“It’s a good budget,” Selectmen’s Chairman Bruce Breton said. “I’d like to see it a little leaner. I think we could dig deeper to find more cost savings.”
Selectman Phil LoChiatto is pushing a department consolidation for maintenance, public works and the transfer station. Breton said that could save the town $60,000 to $70,000.
Breton has previously suggested the idea and supports the move, which selectmen will discuss.
The restructuring would be made possible by the recent retirement of maintenance chief Al Barlow, who officially left town government last week.
Breton, meanwhile, intends to ask the board to withdraw from the CART transit service that also operates in Derry, Londonderry and Salem.
Breton said participation is costing the town $13,000 a year. The community might do better, he said, by putting the money into its existing van service, which enables residents to call the town and schedule a ride.
“We basically have a duplication of service,” he said.
The operating budget is only about $12.2 million. Special warrant articles account for another $740,000.
Officials are looking to make improvements to the Searles Building, buy a highway truck, upgrade police communication and town computers, acquire new breathing gear for firefighters and set aside conservation land.
Town Administrator David Sullivan said there are no new town employees proposed in the budget. A 2.5 percent increase for non-union employees would cost the town $69,423, he said.
There is a $79,705 increase for state retirement expenses.
“Without the rate increase passed on by the state retirement fund, our budget due to other changes would have reflected a net savings from last year,” Sullivan said.
The town is seeing a decrease in total health insurance costs of more than $26,000.
One thing Breton said won’t be coming before voters at the Town Meeting on March 12 is a new contract for police officers and dispatchers. Breton said the two sides were unable to reach agreement.
The budget hearing is scheduled during the selectmen’s meeting at 7 p.m. in the Community Development offices, 3 North Lowell Road.