By Alex Malm
At the Nov. 15 Hampstead Board of Selectmen meeting, setting the tax rate for 2022. was in discussion.
“This is the opportunity to apply any portion of the unassigned fund balance to offset the tax rate,” said Hampstead Administrative Assistant, Sally Theriault.
Without any unreserved fund balance being used, Theriault said the total tax rate would be $23.81, which would be an increase of $1.06 over the current year’s tax rate.
“The unreserved fund balance we have right now is $347,000,” said Theriault.
It was noted by Board of Selectmen Chairman, Sean Murphy, that if they use $134,732 from the unreserved fund balance then it would take 10 cents off the tax rate.
Murphy said he wouldn’t want to use the full unreserved fund balance.
“I don’t want to clear out that fund though to zero,” said Murphy.
Theriault told the Selectmen she got a call from DRA reminding them they are low on their fund balance right now.
Selectmen, Joe Guthrie, said he thought they should be doing anything they can to keep the tax rate down right now due to the economic conditions.
“I don’t agree,” said Guthrie.
He stated many homes they have in town are in the $400,000 to $500,000 in value and said “even 10 cents on the tax rate is a significant amount.”
He said he wouldn’t vote for a tax rate that doesn’t use any fund balance to offset it.
“I won’t vote for it,” said Guthrie.
Guthrie thought they should set the tax rate at $23.71.
One question raised was if they ever had to use the unassigned fund balance during the year.
Theriault said they haven’t had to since she has worked for the town.
Finance Director, Tina Harrington, said it’s recommended that municipalities have eight percent of their local assessment in a fund balance and they would need to have about $2.5 million to meet those guidelines.
“That’s the minimum the state wants you to have. We’ve never done that,” said Harrington.
Selectmen, Laurie Warnock, stated that with the uncertain times she thinks it’s important to have a fund balance in case of unexpected expenses or increases.
“We need to make sure we got some prudent padding. I just don’t think 10 cents makes a significant difference,” said Warnock.
Murphy saidt on a $500,000 home, the 10 cent savings would save someone $50 on their tax rate. “I don’t see that as a huge impact,” said Murphy.
Selectmen, Steve Morse, pointed out that one of the biggest reasons for the tax increase was due to the fire station warrant article that was approved by voters last year.
The Board of Selectmen ultimately approved the tax rate at $23.81 with Guthrie voting against it.