Salem finance board aims to trim anticipated increase in tax rate

Salem - The Board of Finance will reconsider the various departmental budgets for 2014-15 Thursday in an attempt to lower an anticipated 2- to 3- mill increase in the tax rate.

"I think the largest (mill increase) I would support - and this is a big number for me - is somewhere between 1.5 and 1.6," said board member George Householder, who requested a discussion on the issue at last week's meeting.

"I think the (final) number's really going to surprise us," said Householder about the nearly 3-mill increase he estimated in the budget. "In my 10 years on the board, this will be the biggest tax increase we've had."

He said the town has been averaging a 0.3 to 0.6 mill increase over the last three years.

Although most board members seemed to share Householder's concern about the increasing tax rate, some questioned the feasibility of a 1.6-mill or less increase.

"We're way over 1.5 mills with either strategy here," said Chairman T.J. Butcher, when the board discussed options for reducing the capital plan.

Board member Janet Griggs said there may be a need for budget with a 2-mill increase because a 1-one mill increase is needed to just begin paying off the school construction bond.

After the board approved a 1.4 percent increase in the school budget this month, much less than the 4.4 percent increase that was requested, Householder said he received several phone calls from residents supporting the cut.

But school officials and some parents were unhappy with the decrease, said Griggs, who added the people calling Householder might not be representative of the general public.

"I think there's a good chance that we will get a very large outcry for trying to cut the school budget and they will try to get us to restore the money," she said.

The Board of Finance has asked representatives from the town's boards and commissions to attend Thursday's meeting because of the possibility that departments' budgets will be altered. The board will prepare for the upcoming public hearing by reviewing the budget, calculating final numbers and targeting areas that can be reduced.

"Just bring your coffee with you (on Thursday)," Householder told other board members, "because I think we do have a long night ahead of us."

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