This February the 11th, at 6 pm, the Selectmen will conduct a public hearing at the Town Offices on their proposed 2010 Town Budget. As we work through the annual budget process and prepare for Town Meeting we have a few observations to share. It has been a tough couple of years for us all. Jobs are vanishing, new jobs are hard to find. Healthcare costs are going up many times faster than incomes. Many economic factors are affecting us all and we, neither as individuals nor as a town, can not control them.
However, having benefited from all the hard work of town employees and volunteers, the Selectmen are happy to say that 2009 expenses were less than budgeted. The Selectmen’s proposed operating budget for 2010 is 2% less than 2009 and about the same as 2008! The proposed 2010 budget contains only the essential funding we need to operate this town. Our tax rate is the lowest of any of our surrounding towns, and we believe we can keep it that way.
The Skatutakee/North Pond bridge is open. Paving and the guard rails will be completed this spring. Of the original $427,000 appropriated, Harrisville is receiving all but about $38,000 back from federal ARRA funds. The weatherization work done at the Library and Recycling center last year is already paying dividends. Our heat bills for those buildings are down by 25%. We have enough fuel and generators on hand to run critical town buildings during the next ice storm or hurricane.
There is a new phone system at the Town Hall. There are voice mail boxes for all the departments. The computerized accounting system is updated. We have an improved understanding of what resources each department uses and needs. The filing system is increasingly easy to use. We are realizing savings from these changes and expect more savings as time goes on.
One of the things we do control in these tough times is how we prepare Harrisville’s budget. Our proposed budget is austere, the selectmen and the department heads have put all the nonessential requests into warrant articles for voter approvals.
That said, we need to fund the Capital Reserve funds more aggressively. The town has two more bridges to replace in our immediate future. Church Street and School Street are in poor repair. The Highway Department needs a new garage, as well as sand and salt sheds. We encourage all voters to attend the budget hearing and Town meeting. The Selectmen need your participation to make the best decisions for our town.