Amherst Selectmen are offering a higher budget that focuses on competitive wages and road repairs.
The board presented a proposed operating budget of $11,414,625 at the public hearing during their meeting on Monday. This is $561,264 higher than the current budget, which would add $.23/thousand increase to the town’s tax rate if approved.
Selectman Dwight Brew added that Amherst’s tax rate is the eighth lowest in Hillsborough County.
The proposed FY14 budget includes a large focus on repairs to Lyndeborough Road (Winding Hollow to Carol Ann), Cross Street (between Courthouse and Middle) and the Middle Street sidewalk. Additional proposed road reconstruction work from the road bond, which does not directly impact the operating budget, includes Walnut Hill Road and Middle Street are still going through design and layout before going through hearings and presentations.
Increases in New Hampshire Retirement, health insurance increases and landfill district costs are included in the budget.
EMS and fire personnel compensation is also a big player in the budget process this time around. Chairman Bruce Bowler has lead an effort to pay for firefighter training and raise wages for both fire and EMS employees in order to improve recruitment and retention rates. Bowler said that Amherst is far behind similar communities in compensating these employees.
The Amherst Ways & Means Committee agrees that changes need to be made, but disagreed on certain aspects of the plan at Monday’s meeting. The committee supports raising EMS wages ($75,000) and pay improvements and incentives for firefighters.
The committee believes that compensation for firefighters taking Level 2 training should be cut in half from the selectmen’s proposal of $15,960. They do also not agree that the town should pay for time spent for firefighter probationary training ($2,520/yr), EMT training ($6,480/yr) or monthly fire department meetings ($13,468/yr)
Amherst voters voted down their last proposed budget of $11,095,396 at last year’s election, which left the town with a $10,853,361 default budget this year. The default budget for this year’s elections has been calculated at $11,269,800.