March 26, 2021

Proposed Windham budget could have lasting positive impact for town

Windham's town councilors will receive the town
manager's proposed 2021-2022 budget of 
$35,115,270 during a meeting on April 6. If
approved, the budget will be presented to voters
during the annual town meeting on June 12.
By Ed Pierce

For many town residents, there’s a lot to like about Windham 2021-2022 budget proposal as members of the Windham Town Council prepare to examine it closer when it is presented during the council’s scheduled April 6 meeting. 

Windham Town Manager Barry A. Tibbetts said the goal of this year’s budget proposal is to maintain services and programs while implementing capital improvements to improve the community. 

Potential capital projects for the year ahead for the town funded in the proposed $35,115,270 budget include paving and sidewalk work; work on rear access roads off Route 302; addressing North Windham wastewater treatment; completing the second phase of the Lowell Reserve parking lot; creation of three new playing fields behind Manchester School; a possible new community center; and addressing open-space property issues in Windham.

“In the proposed budget 2021-2022, we are looking to accomplish several objectives; hold the budget increase due to the COVID impacts on residents and businesses, continue with the paving and equipment replacement programs, develop recreational playing fields and playground while expanding parking at Lowell,” Tibbetts said. “The first item is to hold or limit any increases in the budget to the minimum based on the COVID impact to residents and businesses. The municipal budget increase is at 0.33 percent, or flat or no increase to the mil rate.” 

The new playing fields could be accomplished through a municipal bond and the use of town impact fees, Tibbetts said, and the parking lot at Lowell Preserve can also be paid for through town impact fees.

Longstanding wastewater treatment issues in North Windham may finally be addressed and potentially resolved following the Windham Town Council’s approval of two new Tax Increment Financing Districts and amendment of an existing TIF at its Jan. 26 meeting. Councilors agreed at that meeting to establish new 30-year TIF districts for North Windham and South Windham and voted to amend the current NW Roosevelt Trail TIF.

What that means is that the North Windham TIF could leverage taxes generated for a specific project such as wastewater treatment and use them to finance sewers or make other infrastructure improvements in the TIF district.

Savings for funding some other projects will be achieved by the retirement of existing town debt and obligations such as expiring leases on town vehicles and equipment and paying off an existing road bond of $148,625, Tibbetts said.

Roads to be repaved should the councilors approve, and then town voters agree at the town meeting on June 12 are Land of Nod Road; Depot Street; Common Avenue; Dunridge Circle; Page Road, Vance Drive; Varney Mill Road; Gosher and Gateway subdivison; Hillcrest Subdivision; Abby & Oak Subdivision; and Lantern Lane Cross Culvert.  

The budget proposal includes allocating up to $200,000 in capital funding for paving stretches of dirt roads on Hall Road; Gilman Drive; Old Country Road; a portion of Swett Road; Keene Road; Barnes Road; Read Road; Town Farm Road; Pendleton Ash Way; Peartree Lane; Craig Road; Claman Drive; Jones Hill Road; Hall Road where it meets Route 302; and Neighborly Way.

Under the budget proposal, Tibbetts said that Windham will add an assistant town manager and two new fire/emergency medical technicians.

If the budget is approved as proposed, town impact fees will be used to replace the playground equipment as Lowell Preserve and for a design and engineering study to improve Donna Lippman Park.

“We are maintaining our 16.67 percent unassigned balance reserve to meet Government Finance Officers’ Association three-month recommendation for operating revenues,” Tibbetts said. “This is important for any bonding we would be considering.”

Tibbetts said that the town will use about half of last year’s revenues increase for the coming year to provide a reserve for future unexpected variances in the economy.

“Those unanticipated revenues in the coming year over the new projections could be used on next year’s budget,” he said. “This is a conservative approach which will allow for better budgetary management in the long term.”   

For 2021-2022, Tibbetts said revenues are projected to rise overall about 3.2 percent.

“The expenditures are increased by 0.33 percent,” he said. “The county budget has increased by 3.1 percent. The end result of the mil rate, while holding the school overlay and new building and land valuations as static, would increase 0.02 cents based on the county budget.”     

The budget that Tibbetts is proposing includes $1.1 million for the lease/purchase of two plow trucks; a street sweeper; a trackless snow blower/mower; three new EMS stretchers; and three new cardiac monitors. It also allocates $550,000 to complete the purchase of Engine 7 for the town’s fire department. 

Although the RSU 14 has yet to be formulated, the budget Tibbetts will submit to town councilors for 2021-2022 is marginally higher than the 2020-2021’s budget of $35,048,303 approved by town voters and the town council.

With the mil rate of 4.4 unchanged from a year ago, the municipal tax rate for Windham will be flat, Tibbetts said. < 

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