SALEM, N.H. — Selectmen unanimously approved a $52.8 million operating budget Wednesday night that will go before voters in March.

Through the budget process, Town Manager Chris Dillon said he worked with staff to reduce the proposed operating budget by $900,000.

The operating budget is expected to increase by 3.5%, said Finance Director Nicole McGee, adding that more final calculations will be available in December before selectmen vote on what items to include separately as warrant articles.

McGee said the budget approved Wednesday results in about a 2.6% tax rate increase to $7.29 per $1,000 of property valuation. She added that the estimated tax rate includes the warrant articles and estimates for some items that would be finalized by the end of the year.

Salem’s tax rate for 2019 is $7.10 per $1,000. The municipal tax rate accounts for about a third of the total property taxes paid biannually.

One of the estimated expenses in the budget is costs for some municipal employees.

Two collective bargaining agreements are still being negotiated, but any adjustments would be reflected in the final budget, Dillon said.

Selectmen will vote on the warrant articles in December.

For example, there are proposed bonds that include expanding water and sewer to West Duston Road and drainage improvements. Other potential warrant articles include bridge engineering for Bridge Street over the Spicket River and finishing the new access road to the transfer station.

The town’s road program, which would be a separate warrant item from the operating budget, is level-funded at $4.7 million, according to Dillon.

The road program was cut from the operating budget, Dillon said.

A $4.9 million road program was initially proposed, a 3% increase in last year’s budget, Director of Municipal Services Roy Sorenson said.

If selectmen plan to cut any more from the road program, it would be announced in December when the board works on the proposed warrant articles, Chairman Jim Keller said.

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