The town of Manchester has a budget for for the 2021 fiscal year, following the town council’s unanimous passage of Ordinance 245 at its most recent meeting, conducted remotely over a video conference call.
The adopted budget is balanced at $5,263,882 in total, with a general fund balanced at $3,217,849, a water fund balanced at $1,069,400 and sewer fund balanced at $976,633. Some of the capital expenditures included in the budget for FY21 — which runs July 1 through June 20, 2021 — include computer upgrades for the police department and waste water department, water meter replacements, playground construction in Christmas Tree Park and road repairs, according to town Director of Finance Kelly Baldwin.
“We have $300,000-plus in road repairs,” she said at the meeting.
But while the town is taking care of necessary expenditures, the budget is a low-ball estimate, Mayor Ryan Warner said during the meeting. He noted that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s difficult to know what will happen to tax and other revenue.
“We don’t know what income tax is going to look like, we don’t know what highway user [revenue] is going to look like,” Warner said. “We might end up with more money in this budget in the fall than we think, based on how our revenue numbers come in, but it’s important to be conservative at this point.”
The budget ordinance was first introduced at the April town council meeting, and the public hearing held prior to the main business meeting on Tuesday, May 12. The one public comment was an email from a woman who asked about the possibility that town water and sewer rates could be increased in the coming fiscal year.
That concern was addressed during the meeting by Manchester Town Administrator Steve Miller.
“At this present time, the water and sewer rates will stay the same,” he said.
The adopted FY21 budget keeps the water rate at the current $3.50 per 1,000 gallons and a quarterly unit fee of $27, while the sewer rates will remain $6 per 1,000 gallons with a quarterly unit fee of $36. The real property tax rate of $0.216 per $100 of assessed value is similarly conserved in the new budget.
But while the the rates may remain the same, uncertainties in how much revenue will be collected due to the COVID-19 pandemic means the town council needs to prepare to revisit the budget during FY21 if necessary, Warner said during the meeting, and perhaps consider using budget amendments or special appropriations, tools he said the town has rarely used.
“We have to have a budget. It’s important we have it,” Warner said. “It has to be balanced, but at the same time I think all of us collectively will have to maintain some flexibility to sit down in September or December or March and continue to make this thing work as circumstances change.”