By Paul Conyers
The Sandown Budget Committee came together for an effective Oct. 19 meeting to discuss the ongoing expenses of the Budget Committee.
Spending in Sandown largely remained level, with a few small reductions. Concerns over volatile economic conditions in the near future meant a fairly conservative spending mindset.
“On the agenda, tonight is going to be our budget,” said recently elected Committee Chair, Ben Sharpe.
The first item was to reduce the payroll for Budget Committee Secretary from $1,500 to $1,000. The change came from the recent decision to reduce meeting frequency from every week to every other week. The overall pay rate is higher for town officials to match inflation, and the proposal to save money with fewer meetings was unanimously approved. The Board of Selectmen still needs to greenlight the change.
Carol Bassett of Cemetery Trustees was at the meeting to present the cemetery budget. Sharpe asked about slightly higher costs in the site repair line of the upcoming budget.
“The total is the same as last year,” explained Bassett. “Our lawnmower’s getting pretty old, I rearranged that a little bit in anticipation of the possibility it having to do some work.”
Apart from the single line item, there was no discussion following the explanation. The Budget Committee unanimously approved $5,001 in expenses for the cemetery, a number unchanged from 2022.
Paul D’Amore, Head Building Inspector and Code Enforcement Officer in Sandown, was at the meeting to present a lengthier budget proposal for all town inspectors, except electrical. D’Amore added that the town plumbing inspector also covers gas and mechanical issues.
“I’m level funded for everything, I haven’t changed anything from this year,” D’Amore explained. “Business is so volatile, right now, who knows what happens next year.”
Some numbers are difficult to calculate, including the original payroll estimate of $29,564. Estimates are based on the previous year, and projects often carry over from one year to the next. Fees are paid out with the completion of an inspection, making it difficult to predict what will come in at the end of a financial season.
“This is a variable, it’s an ever-changing budget,” Finance Director, Gayle Hamel, said. A lack of predictability also came from inflation.
“Given the cost of everything else going up, is there any consideration to increasing the permit fees?” Committee member, David Solomon, asked.
D’Amore could not answer, as it is a matter for the Board of Selectmen. However, he did note town inspectors have no immediate need to increase the fee, and there are no plans to ask the Selectmen for an increase. He added that Code Enforcement has been looking into online permitting to streamline the inspection process.
“I don’t know if I’ll get to online permitting in this budget,” D’Amore warned. I think it would be an asset, it would give us real-time numbers on all of my budgets, though I don’t think I’m ready to pitch that today.”