BERLIN — There will be no property tax increase this year, Mayor Paul Grenier proclaimed, as the city council Monday approved a fiscal 2017 general fund budget of $32.59 million. The approved budget is down $753,728 or 2.2 percent over the current budget.
When budget deliberations began this March the council set a goal of holding the tax rate at last year’s rate of $39.19. The council acknowledged that some taxpayers took a major hit last year when the tax rate increased more than $5 because of a citywide property revaluation that decreased Berlin’s total valuation. While many taxpayers saw their tax bill go down because their property value dropped dramatically, those homeowners whose property values stayed the same or increased in the revaluation absorbed a steep tax increase.
To achieve a zero tax increase, most department budgets were kept at near level funding and the school board’s budget request was cut $400,000.
The council voted to use $1.02 million from the unappropriated fund balance to reduce taxes, leaving $1.6 million in that fund, which is above the five percent minimum recommended.
The council Monday night made two changes to the budget it presented at the May public hearing. It added $25,000 to the capital improvement line item for replacing the city’s skate park and $90,000 to the school capital improvement budget for a new school bus.
Earlier in the evening, the council received a report on the city’s 2015 audit by Jarad Vartanian and Robert Vachon from the accounting firm of Vachon & Clukay. Vartanian said the city received a good rating.
Grenier asked Vachon, managing partner of the firm and a Berlin native, to assess the city’s financial health.
Vachon said he feels the city is pretty well managed and praised the work of Fiscal Director Patty Chase. He said the council appears to understand the needs of the taxpayers and attempts to balance what residents can afford with the needs of the city.
Vartanian said Berlin is not alone and said he sees all communities battling to manage tax rates.
STEWARTSTOWN — Just a month short of five years since she was reported missing, the stepfather of 11-year-old Celina Cass has been charged with second-degree murder in her death.
Wendell Noyes, 52, was arrested Monday, according to a press release from the N.H. Attorney General’s office, and charged with killing her by submerging her body in the Connecticut River. Noyes was Celina’s stepfather at the time of her disappearance on July 26, 2011.