The Seabrook Finance Report May 2018

At the May 7, 2018 meeting I presented the Board of Selectmen with a financial report in advance of the budget season, pulling together Seabrook’s disparate financial data into one report. As part of that report I have also submitted the 2017 water report, as well as the 2017 sewer report. Those reports highlight the growing amount of the “tax subsidy” flowing from taxpayers to ratepayers. The 2017 report on the ambulance revolving fund, as well as two additional reports (Appendix A and B) are also below. I have included an executive summary, which is also reprinted in full below.

Seabrook Financial Report
Executive Summary

The report submitted today will commence the conversation, and help to clarify some of the underlying issues, on Seabrook’s financial future. The financial data was compiled with the assistance of Carrie Fowler, our Finance Manager, and Angie Silva, our Assessor. 
The report looks at what factors go into setting our municipal tax rate, with the data showing us where we get our tax dollars, and where those tax dollars go. The report shows us the trend lines involved, with the goal of assisting our policy makers on the Board of Selectmen and the Budget Committee.

What are some of the important trends shown in the report? We see that the total dollars raised through taxation by the Town of Seabrook, in the measured period, (2014-2017) have grown by slightly over $2 million, a rate of growth of less than 2%. That makes it difficult to make the case that Seabrook has a “spending” problem. The report shows the impact that the drop in NextEra tax revenue has had, and how that drop has fundamentally changed the percentages paid by the different classes of taxpayers. In 2016, for the first time since the Seabrook Station opened, the “residential” class of taxpayers paid more in taxes than NextEra. That trend line has accelerated since then. As this trend continues it will present major policy challenges for the Town. Another trend that the report highlights is the importance of the commercial/industrial/other utility category, which has grown in the measured period by over $2 million, bringing that number to over $9 million annually. This category will likely pass NextEra as a tax contributor in the next three to five years, and shows that the idea that Seabrook could do without this tax class is misplaced. The new growth numbers are examined, and show that $2 million in new tax revenues have been derived in the measured period, and that “new growth” has been vital, financially, to Seabrook.

The report also examines where our tax dollars are going. It shows that the “town” portion of the overall dollars raised has declined slightly, with the local school portion rising correspondingly. It would appear, based on that trend, that the schools will pass the Town, budget wise, within three years. The four year increase in the total tax levy for the Town is $322,711, which is a rate of increase of less than 1/2 of a percent a year. The report looks at some of the reasons for that number, including the history of the “unexpended fund balance,” which was driven to over $9 million in 2016, allowing the Board to strategically deploy some of those resources to hold down the tax levy. The drop in NextEra payments is also reflected in that number. It is further evidence that the issues facing us have less to do with a “spending” problem than with a “redistribution” of the relative tax burden.

As we look at some of the key numbers in the report each measured year looks at “local revenues,” and points out that the dollars raised through “local revenues” reduces the need for money to be raised through taxation. Appended to the main report are the two 2017 reports detailing the subsidy from taxpayers to the sewer fund, and the water fund. These two reports show that the subsidy amounts to over $1.8 million without the inclusion of capital. If capital is included that number will exceed $2 million. Operationally that is 8.2% of the operating (non-capital) budget, and a major issue facing us going forward.

The report looks at employee health care costs, which have been relatively stable over the course of the measured period, albeit at a major percentage of the overall budget. Those costs are over 15% of our operating budget, and the report looks at what a reduction in that number would mean for Seabrook’s budget. The report looks at this number in combination with the above mentioned water and sewer subsidy, recognizing that in combination those two items constitute 23% of the operating budget, and growing. The problem that creates, budget wise, is obvious. These two items are crowding out other necessary spending, and if the trajectory continues the strain will only become more substantial. The report looks at the 2017 tax rate, and determines that without a water and sewer subsidy the tax rate increase would have gone from the actual 9.9% to 2%.

The policy issues facing the governing body and the Budget Committee are discussed in general terms. What are they?

Should services be maintained at current levels?

If services are to be maintained should they be delivered in the same fashion?

If service cuts are to be made where should they come from?

Should steps be taken to end the subsidy from taxpayers to water and sewer ratepayers?

How should we deal with the trend of lower overall payments from NextEra?

This report is not the end, but rather the beginning of the many policy issues facing Seabrook. Hopefully it will provide some tools for our policy makers as this process begins.

Seabrook Finance Report Executive Summary

Seabrook Financial Report 2018

Seabrook Finance Report Appendix A

Seabrook Finance Report Appendix B

Seabrook Finance Report Appendix Ambulance

Seabrook Finance Report Appendix Water

Seabrook Finance Report Appendix Sewer

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Methuen Democratic Breakfast 2018

Great turnout at the 2018 Methuen Democratic Town Committee breakfast, where over 300 Democrats gathered to hear candidates speak, recognize Christine Metzmaekers as Democrat of the Year, and conduct a straw poll for some of the exciting races we have coming up later this year. Congrats to Christine, a great Democrat who really deserved the recognition. Thanks to our Chair Jessica Finocchiaro for all of her hard work in putting it together. Thanks to all the Committee members who worked so hard to make the breakfast a success. The poll results are below. Thanks to all the candidates who took the time to attend the breakfast and offer all of us some perspective on their candidacies.

GOVERNOR (choose one):
4___Stephen Golub
***140___Jay Gonzalez
119___Bob Massie

3___Peter Lin-Marcus
14___Louis Marino
***152___Quentin Palfrey
64___Jimmy Tingle

SECRETARY of State (choose one):
***131___Bill Galvin (I)
129___Josh Zakim

U.S. SENATE (choose one):
17___Robert Mancini
5___Ronald Reden
***252___Elizabeth Warren (I)

0___Jeffrey Ballinger
14___Alexandra Chandler
16___Beej Das
75___Rufus Gifford
0___Leonard Golder
77___Dan Koh
25___Barbara L’Italien
24___Patrick Littlefield
2___Bopha Malone
8___Juana Matias
0___Keith St. John
***115___Lori Trahan

***261___Eileen Duff (I)
29___Nicholas Torresi

5___Stephen Battle
***252___Diana DiZoglio
8___Adele Martino

***197___Lisa Ferry
69___Christina Minicucci

***203___Paul Iannuccillo (I)
12___Michael Fielding
14___Francisco Paulino
21___Alexcy Vega

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Mayor James Jajuga State of the City Address

On Tuesday April 24, 2018 Mayor James P. Jajuga gave his first State of the City Address as Mayor, at Mann’s Orchard. The video of his remarks is below.

The Eagle Tribune coverage of Mayor Jajuga’s speech.

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Seabrook Fire Receives Equipment Donation from Chartwell

The Seabrook Board of Selectmen voted to accept an very generous equipment donation from Chartwell, the owners of Rockingham Village, who donated two Lucus Cor automatic CPR machines worth over $15,000 each, along with a new radio box system that will vastly improve information flowing to the Department upon the sounding of an alarm. The entire donation totaled over $82,000 and the Board of Selectmen expressed their appreciation to Chartwell for this very generous donation to Seabrook Fire. Congrats to Chief William Edwards for all of his work on this project.

Seabrook Firefighters Nate Mawson and Christopher Perry

Media coverage of the Chartwell Donation

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Seabrook Elementary School Unveils Mosaics for Anniversary Celebration

On Friday April 20, 2018 the Seabrook Elementary School unveiled four Mosaics that students and Artist Lizz Van Saun created to help celebrate the 250th anniversary of the Town of Seabrook. What a great program it was, with wonderful music and the unveiling of the four mosaics. Thanks to the School Board, Principal Stephanie Lafreniere, Assistant Principal Mark Dangora, and Music Teacher Katrina O’Brien for a wonderful event. Members of the Historical Commission, the Anniversary Committee, and the Board of Selectmen were on hand to enjoy the mosaics, and the entire program.

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RIP Seabrook Police Officer Jim Cawley

Seabrook lost a terrific person who impacted our community for many years as a Police Officer, Jim Cawley. Jim was a terrific person who we lost far too soon. Officer Jim Cawley was brought home to Seabrook, and his procession passed Seabrook Town Hall, the Seabrook Fire Department, and the Seabrook DPW. That procession had throngs of his friends and co-workers standing out of respect, and affection for Jim personally. Thanks to Fire Chief William Edwards, DPW Manager John Starkey, and Police Chief Gallagher and Lt. Kevin Gelineau for bringing Jim home in such a nice way. The Seabrook Board of Selectmen joined in making this statement to the media on Officer Cawley.

“Today’s display of respect and affection for him is indicative of the esteem in which he was held by his fellow police officers, firefighters and the many town workers who knew and admired him,”

Media on the passing of Officer Cawley

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Brown’s Lobster Pound in Seabrook Re-Opens

The Seabrook Board of Selectmen were on hand Friday April 13, 2018 to help the Brown family to cut the ribbon as they re-opened Brown’s Lobster Pound after rebuilding the facility following a major fire. Brown’s Lobster Pound has been a Seabrook institution for decades, and the Brown family was determined to rebuild this great destination point despite the great challenges, and expense, of the effort. Congratulations to Mr. Bruce Brown and the entire family for the successful grand opening, which has produced a beautiful and modern facility designed to serve the massive customer base of Brown’s for many years to come. Thanks to Executive Councilor Russell Prescott for his attendance, and his kind words. Thanks to Governor Sununu, who sent a citation celebrating the re-opening.

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