Prudence Volunteer Fire Dept. gets its money as budget adopted

$64.88 million spending plan calls for 43-cent hike in tax rate

By Jim McGaw
Posted 6/25/19

PORTSMOUTH — The Town Council Monday night approved a total budget of $64.88 million for fiscal year 2019-2020 and also satisfied supporters of the Prudence Island Volunteer Fire Department …

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Prudence Volunteer Fire Dept. gets its money as budget adopted

$64.88 million spending plan calls for 43-cent hike in tax rate

Posted

PORTSMOUTH — The Town Council Monday night approved a total budget of $64.88 million for fiscal year 2019-2020 and also satisfied supporters of the Prudence Island Volunteer Fire Department (PIVFD).

The spending plan represents a 2.52-percent increase over the current budget and a tax levy increase of 3.54 percent, which complies with a state law that caps the amount municipalities can raise in new revenue each year at 4 percent. 

The new tax rate starting July 1 will be $16.40 — 43 cents more than the current rate of $15.97. A resident with a $380,000 home will pay $6,232 in property taxes next year, an increase of $163.

Council member Keith Hamilton, who questioned several new requests including money for a full-time recreation director when the provisional budget was approved on May 13, was the sole member to vote against the final spending plan.

Mr. Hamilton managed to convince the council, however, to find more money for PIVFD without raising taxes further. His proposal to assign $80,000 in budget surplus funds to the department was approved unanimously.

His request came after a roomful of Prudence Island residents, at the June 12 public budget hearing, pleaded with the council to fund PIVFD Chief Bob Dragon’s full request of $250,870 in civic support for his department. That represented a 48.6-percent hike over the current allocation of $168,800.

Town Administrator Richard Rainer, Jr. basically proposed level-funding the department’s budget. He recommended $170,540 for PIVFD — about 1 percent more than the current allocation, but $80,330 less than what Chief Dragon had asked for.

Mr. Hamilton asked that $80,000 be taken from the town’s fund balance to allow PIVFD to purchase new radios and turnout gear, and make repairs to existing equipment. Some of the funds may also be used for EMT training.

Surplus used for police station

Mr. Hamilton pointed out the town had already dipped into its surplus to cover cost overruns on the new police station, a capital project. Since the PIVFD was basically asking for money for “capital items” rather than for operating costs, assigning surplus funds was appropriate, he said.

Mr. Hamilton said the funds cannot be released until a town audit is completed. “This money is not available until probably January, so don’t go down to Radios R Us just yet,” he told Chief Dragon.

Any money that is not used would revert back into the general fund, he said.

Larry Fitzmorris, of the taxpayer group Portsmouth Concerned Citizens, said while he was in favor of PIVFD receiving its full funding request, the money should have been found elsewhere in the main budget.

“It’s a bad practice to start pulling money out of the fund balance,” Mr. Fitzmorris said.

In a budget exceeding $60 million, he added, “we should be able to find $80,000 to help fund the volunteer fire department on Prudence Island.”

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