The Concord City Council will analyze the $123.6 million fiscal year 2023 budget presented by City Manager Tom Aspell which requests a 4.8 tax rate increase. The increase and larger budget, which was around $109 million last year, comes at a time when the city’s property owners are facing the highest property taxes in history — and also have to absorb a 4.43 percent SAU 8 school district tax rate increase for its $96.3 million budget and a looming $100-plus million middle school project.
At the same time, councilors and the public are pushing for more services — including an increase in emergency medical services, which is about 40 percent of the property tax rate increase, at 1.82 percent. The other almost 3 percent addresses other operational needs, according to Aspell.
Most of the budget drivers are the usual culprits that all governments and businesses are facing — including health insurance costs, “soaring inflation,” and contributions to the New Hampshire Retirement System, Aspell said. One other nagging issue that fails to be addressed by councilors or the city’s state legislators or senator is the fact that more than 23 percent of the property in the city is not taxed due to being held by the state, nonprofits, and churches. The state pays the city a tiny stipend for use of parking spaces and other things but it in no way makes up for the millions of dollars in lost revenue for not having these landholdings on the tax rolls. The city is also experiencing “significant employee competition” for positions which is requiring the city to adapt with salary and benefits, he said.
Other highlights include the reinstatement of $127,000 for a fourth assistant prosecutor, which was eliminated last year but was needed due to an increase in crime, and a part-time trails ranger that is being funded through a trust fund.
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A riverfront park in Penacook for $1.9 million, $576,000 for Loudon Road Bridge repairs, new traffic signals, and $2.65 million in paving funding and other road projects, too, are in the budget. About $100,000 in repairs to sidewalks on Main Street is in the budget as well as a splash pad at White Park for $750,000 and hundreds of thousands of dollars in software purchases and building repairs at municipal buildings.
The fire department will also receive a new ambulance at $300,000 ad another tower ladder truck for $1.755 million. The police department could get four new SUVs at a cost of $230,000.
Another $490,000 is being set aside to design a new clubhouse at the Beaver Meadow Golf Course along with $600,000 for irrigation, tree management, and equipment, at the course, too.
Aspell said the success of the Interchange Development project at Whitney Road, which includes a new Market Basket and liquor store, will allow the city to release 10 percent of the captured incremental assessed value in the Penacook Village TIF District for the Merrimack School District, county, and city’s general fund.
In order to get to a balanced budget, Aspell was presuming that certain “macroeconomic trends” occur that will not have an “outsized influence on the city’s financial picture.” Officials are anticipating increases in the cost of fuel, supplies, salt and sand, and wage increases, too. The budget includes wage increases for seasonal and temporary staffers. Health insurance will increase by 10.25 percent with employees’ share increasing from 5 to 10 percent. The city will also save $66,000 due to having a self-funded insurance program.