Town, School Officials Ignore Budget Committee Request

HAMPSTEAD – Although the Budget Committee sent out a request earlier in the week asking all department heads, selectmen, and School District officials to meet with it on Thursday night, Dec. 19, to present their budgets and warrant articles, the request apparently fell on deaf ears.

All budgets had already been presented at either Board of Selectmen budget meetings or School Board budget meetings. Most of those asked to attend noted that a budget hearing has already been scheduled for early January by the Board of Selectmen, with another that same week for the School District.
In view of the lack of response, Budget Committee chairman Matt Murphy scheduled Jan. 9, the committee’s regularly scheduled night, for his committee to review the budgets and vote to recommend or not recommend.
The committee members vented their feelings – ranging from disappointment to frustration – at the lack of attendance. Ann Howe said she was glad Police Chief Joe Beaudoin had taken the new cruiser out of the budget and plans to fund it by the Detail Fund, adding she has questions regarding that fund. She expressed disappointment over the apparent lack of importance seen in the role of the Budget Committee and said she wants to see that changed.
She said she hopes to hold meetings with department heads, selectmen and school district personnel starting early next year to check into the status of their budgets and how they are using the money.
Murphy said he was disappointed and disgusted that people still had not turned in mileage and department bills. Even more disturbing to him are that some budgets rubber stamp the previous year’s request or overspend line items, with no record of where the overage money came from.
“It is a little upsetting and disappointing,” he said. “I wanted the department heads to come in and go over their budgets line by line. I think that is the only way to find places where we can reduce budgets.”
He too indicated he thought the committee should be playing a bigger role in budget building. He said health care is going to hit all budgets hard and major adjustments will have to be made.
Murphy added that he thinks it is important to provide department heads with an opportunity to explain their budget requests and to have a chance to reduce the budgets to ensure taxpayers are getting the most value for their tax dollars.
“What I want to make sure of is that there is accountability for how the town is spending the money,” he said. “We need to improve our communication and contact with department heads, the selectmen and the school district. We need to go over budgets line by line, and that didn’t happen this year. We should be trying to reduce budgets and get taxpayers some relief.”
The committee discussed the $6 million-plus school renovation and reconstruction project that will be a warrant article and complained that not once had that project been presented to the Budget Committee. And they expressed concern that close to a half million dollars has already been spent on the project just for architectural work.
Murphy ended the discussion by saying he hopes the Budget Committee can shave some of the School District budget when it comes up for discussion in January.
The committee also learned it had not been approving minutes, which is required, and agreed to address that.

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