FROM THE TOWN ADMINISTRATOR’S DESK
By Gregory T. Federspiel
One of the advantages of living in a small town like Manchester is the easy access residents have to town government and the ability to direct the decisions that are made. Two meetings next week provide great opportunities to have your voice be heard.
The first meeting is on Monday, December 3 at Town Hall. At 7:30PM, a preliminary FY20 budget presentation will be given to the Selectmen and the Finance Committee. The public is encouraged to attend the presentation as well.
The preliminary budget is developed by department leaders and the Town Administrator with guidance from departmental liaisons from the Finance Committee. This team is given general guidance by the Selectmen and the Finance Committee as they assemble the preliminary budget. This year, departments were instructed to craft a level services budget – what will it take to provide the same level of services next year as are being provided now. It usually takes a 2 to 2.5% increase in expenditures to fund a level services budget given modest salary increases to staff, higher benefit costs and general inflation.
Leaders were also instructed to develop a budget that would only require a 1.5% increase in expenditures. Under this budget, Selectmen and Finance Committee members are looking to see what the service impacts would be from a smaller increase in funding. Thus departments have highlighted the reductions they would make in order to come in at an increase no greater than 1.5% over their current budget and the impact on services this would have.
The presentation on Monday will walk through these two budget scenarios as well as highlight the small number of proposed staffing changes that are being proposed. The work on the proposed FY20 budget, which voters will debate and vote on at the Annual Town Meeting in April, will continue through February. A second forum is planned for February 25, prior to finalizing the proposed budget and sending it off to the printers for distribution to all residents. (A similar set of public meetings is planned for by the School District on their preliminary budget for FY20 on Wednesday, December 12 at the Middle-High School Library with a final hearing scheduled for January 29 at the Essex Elementary School.)
The second meeting you will want to attend is scheduled for Wednesday evening, December 5 from 6-8 at the Middle-High School cafeteria. The Master Plan Steering Committee will be hosting their final public forum before finalizing the new master plan. At Wednesday’s meeting, the focus will be on the key recommendations that the plan will contain.
Similar to other master plan forums, the meeting on Wednesday will include amble time for residents to engage in conversations regarding a set of recommendations related to a specific topics (e.g.: housing, natural resource protection, land use, economic development, etc.) Your input on the recommendations will be noted and used to make final adjustments prior to the new master plan going to print and being approved by the Planning Board.
The new plan will provide critical guidance for the work many departments and committees will be undertaking over the next few years. It will also guide our budgeting priorities. The steering committee has been working hard over the past few years on the new plan. Once completed, the new work to implement the recommendations begins.
Please plan on attending these important meetings next week. If your schedule does not allow your attendance, you can always give your input by contacting us here at Town Hall.