EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 14, 2013

Plaistow budget proposal up very slightly

By Alex Lippa

---- — PLAISTOW — Selectmen have approved a proposed budget which is higher than last year’s, but by less than 1 percent.

The spending plan comes in at $7.7 million, a 0.72 percent increase from last year.

“I’m pleased with the budget,” said Martha Sumner, chairman of the Budget Committee. “I feel the committee, the Board of Selectmen and, most importantly, the department heads put a lot of thought into presenting the most fiscal budget that could come to the town.”

The budget is subject to change, based on which warrant articles are approved by voters at Town Meeting. The town held a public hearing on the budget last said. Sumner said she believed residents would approve the budget because the default budget is higher than what is being proposed.

The biggest increase is in salaries for town administration employees, which goes from $1.4 million to $1.6 million.

“That is directly attributable to the New Hampshire retirement system and health care costs,” Town Manager Sean Fitzgerald said. “The town has no control over that.”

The town set out to minimize the expected increases by cutting down on other expenditures. The police department saw a $53,329 decrease as the town budgeted only one new police cruiser instead of two. The town received a grant to cover a new command vehicle .

The town also proposed a $25,000 decrease in waste disposal due to the town’s efforts to promote recycling.

“We limited the number of barrels residents could put on a curb in an effort spike recycling,” Fitzgerald said. “It really reduced the tonnage cost. We pay $70 for every ton of waste. The more we recycle, the less tonnage we have and the more savings we are able to receive.”

The town proposed adding $47,910 to the fire department’s budget, the result of adding a new full-time firefighter at Town Meeting last year.

Fitzgerald said he was pleased with the way town leaders were able to limit the budget during a tough economy.

“Given the difficult financial times, we have been able to support a very tight budget over the last few years,” Fitzgerald said. “It has allowed us to move forward on a number of fronts. It also has helped us reduce the tax burden on tax residents.”

The town's portion of the tax rate has been reduced from $6.55 in 2010 to $5.98 last year per $1,000 of valuation.