Following a public hearing scheduled for May 16, councilors could decide on the proposed fiscal year 2018 budget
At press time, the meeting was set for 7:30 Tuesday in the third-floor meeting room of the Municipal Center
After weeks of budget review meetings and workshops, councilors could vote to finalize the approximately $47 million spending plan in the meeting.
During the recent budget reviews and workshops, councilors listened to budget presentations from administrators in various departments such as police and fire, along with Public Works.
Highlights of the 2018 Fiscal Year spending plan include a reduction of approximately three positions and increasing the veteran’s tax credit to $500, Town Administrator David Caron said in a presentation last month on the proposed budget.
Derry will experience about a $442,000 increase in state retirement costs for FY 2018, Caron said. The state retirement system adjusts its rates every two years and Derry’s rates will take effect July 1 in this round, he said.
But by reducing approximately three employees in the finance area, Derry can absorb the costs, Caron said. The reductions include a controller position that will not be re-staffed, he said.
“Derry’s cost is about $442,000 in increased retirement costs so we are able to absorb that,” Caron said.
Derry has also outsourced a majority of its assessing responsibilities and no longer funds either an in-house assessor or a deputy assessor, he said.
In addition, another proposal calls for increasing the Veteran’s tax credit to $500. If approved, the item would have about a $48,000 impact on the budget, he said. The tax credit is currently set at $450.
Caron said a council committee is looking at expanding the credit for vets who served during specific times of war as set forth by state statute.
Other highlights of the budget include an item to fully fund the seven collective bargaining agreements that councilors approved last fall.
The plan also funds the economic development office, with a new a full-time coordinator and a continuing contract with Buxton Retail Recruitment Services and other expenses, Caron said.
The Council members voted at their March 7 meeting to appoint Anne Struthers to the positon of economic development coordinator.
In addition to hiring an economic development coordinator, councilors late last year agreed to hire Buxton Marketing to help recruit retailers to Derry.
To help offset the Derry’s tax rate, which is one of the highest in the state, councilors have been exploring ways to generate tax revenue and help develop the local economy.
Included in the Capital Improvement Plan is an item for a proposed $1.6 million emergency communications system for police and fire.
The item is being proposed to replace outdated transmission and radio equipment, Caron said during a meeting earlier this year at the Planning Board.
“The reason we are doing this now is we’ve got very old equipment with our police and fire dispatch and both facilities are reaching their end of life,” Caron said. “We’ve been told by the manufacturer that it’s difficult to get parts and it appears that in another year or so the vendor will no longer support those two facilities.”
If approved by the Town Council, the proposed communications system would replace all of the transmitter and receiver sites in town, Caron said.
In some areas of town, firefighters can’t always depend on being able to communicate on portable radios, according to fire administrators.
Antiquated equipment with a limited reach can sometimes make it difficult for fire crews to communicate, Derry Assistant Fire Chief Scott Jackson said during an April 18 budget meeting.
The department uses 100 watt mobile radios that have to reach back to the main transmit and receive site, Jackson said during the meeting. But the system is limited in reach and doesn’t always function properly, he said.
“Our guys get out of the vehicle on portables, you can’t hear them,” Jackson said.
To be able to communicate, firefighters have to use devices called repeaters through the vehicle or they have to return to the vehicle, he said
“That becomes very problematic when you have a fire in the Island Pond District at two in the morning and you are screaming for help and no one is hearing you; I’ve been there,” Jackson said.
Jackson added, “So my vision and thinking here is to make sure that never happens again. So that’s why we are trying to collaborate and get the same coverage and protect our employees.”
He appeared at the meeting with Derry police Capt. George Feole during a presentation on the proposed emergency communications system.
“Basically the police side of the project is to replace all of our aging infrastructure in the police department, Feole said.
That includes radio and transmitter sites, along with other communications equipment.
The police department uses a 5-watt “friendly system” that works with hand-held radios, he said.