The City Council adopted the fiscal year 2017 proposed budget during a special meeting on Wednesday, May 4, 2016, at City Hall. The proposed budget was first presented to the City Council by City Manager J. Michael Joyal, Jr., in March. That presentation was followed by a series of budget workshops, meetings and public hearings.
The adopted budget, as amended by the City Council, is $135,932,509. The estimated tax rate, based on the adopted budget, is $27.11 per $1,000 assessed valuation, an increase of 50 cents over the prior year. The state Department of Revenue Administration will set the official tax rate in the fall.
At its final budget workshop and special meeting on May 4, the City Council amended the budget by adjusting it downward a total of $1,802,150.
City Manager J. Michael Joyal Jr. first presented the proposed fiscal year 2017 budget to the City Council on Wednesday, March 23, 2016.
The proposed budget can be viewed online here, at the Dover Public Library, and at City Hall. The adopted budget will be available here soon.
The FY2017 proposed fee schedule, which is included in the budget and was first reviewed by the City Council at its April 6, 2016 budget workshop, can be viewed online here.
Video of the initial budget presentation can be viewed by clicking on the image below:
As the budget process continues, visit this page for updates, including budget documents, presentations, information and video.
To sign up for the City Manager's budget newsletter, Budget Revealed, click here and add Budget Revealed to your subscriptions.
On April 6, 2016, the City Council reviewed the proposed budgets for several City departments, including Executive, Welfare, Finance, DoverNet and Education.
The budget workshop can be viewed here.
Budget presentations and meeting materials can be accessed here.
A budget workshop held on April 20 focused on the proposed budgets for the Planning Department, Police Department, Fire and Rescue, and the Recreation Department. The workshop can be viewed here. Additional budget materials from the April 20 workshop can be accessed here.
The City Council held a budget workshop for general budget discussion was held on Wednesday, April 27.
A final budget workshop was held Wednesday, May 4, followed by a special meeting for budget adoption.
The School Board adopted its budget during its Feb. 11, 2016 regular meeting. The budget was then sent to the City Manager for inclusion in the overall fiscal year 2017 proposed budget.
The School Board's final budget meeting and adoption can be viewed here.
City staff consistently work to identify and implement initiatives that provide cost-savings each year and over time. Some of those initiatives and savings include:
A More Cost-Effective Vehicle Replacement Program
For years, the City’s Vehicle Replacement Program consisted of purchasing a varying number of new police cruisers each year and handing down the used cruisers to detectives or other City departments. Police cruisers are typically retired at 60,000 miles, and in the past, they would be shipped over to Fleet Services, the specialized equipment removed and the vehicles repainted, then migrated back into the fleet, primarily for police detectives.
The City's revised Vehicle Replacement Program meets two goals: It saves the City money and is far more attentive to fuel efficiency. When a police cruiser is retired under the new program, the vehicle is still stripped of equipment and markings, but instead of being shuffled back into the fleet, it is sold on the open market. For example, the City recently sold two retired Ford Taurus Interceptors on the open market for $11,256 each. This is a far better investment than the work and resources required to maintain the vehicles for an extended period of time.
A new, internal service account was created for this purpose. Now, instead of refitting older, less economical vehicles, the City uses that revenue to purchase fuel-efficient vehicles, including the Ford Focus for City departments and the Ford Fusion for police detectives. Not only are the vehicles cheaper to purchase, the savings from fuel efficiency will continue to compound for years.
Based on a recent assessment, fueling up the Ford Fusions in the fleet saved the City more than $2,000, compared to fueling up older vehicles at the same mileage. Maintenance is also less expensive. Maintaining the Ford Fusions over the same period has saved the City $1,133.09.
Legal expenses drop significantly
In November 2005, the position of City Attorney was reconfigured as General Legal Counsel to provide full-time legal counsel to the City. In previous years, those duties were shared with an attorney also responsible for police prosecution, which is now handled by the Police Department.
The savings from that decision were almost immediate. Prior to the change, the city spent more than $200,000 annually on private attorneys and legal counsel. Since that time, that figure has been reduced by half or more. The current budget for outside legal services is $90,000.
Because the City now has immediate, in-house legal services, legal bills have plummeted, particularly on matters related to telecommunications and land-use. Outside legal counsel is required less frequently and only in specialized fields, such as assessment and employment.
In addition to those savings from what would have been billable hours for legal counsel, the Office of the City Attorney has saved Dover other, uncalculated expenses, including the value of immediate consultation on legal matters, current and constant review of legal issues pertaining to the city, and persistent efforts to avoid or limit litigation.
Dover’s legal staff – one City Attorney and one paralegal – compares favorably with communities of similar size. Portsmouth, Keene and Concord, for instance, have legal staffs of two attorneys and a corresponding number of support staff. Dover’s use of electronic filing and electronic agenda review has allowed the city to maintain a smaller legal staff.
Better use of community resources reduces the cost of social services
The City’s Public Welfare Department, as always, helps residents in need with basic services such as food, housing, utilities and heat, as well as offering guidance on where to seek additional help. In the current fiscal year, through February the Public Welfare Department has directly assisted 941 people, based on initial contact with the department by 3,143 people.
Even with the request for services decreasing this year the Welfare Department is able to utilize additional community resources to help shoulder or reduce the cost to the City of providing assistance.
For instance, in previous years the City spent several thousand dollars on food assistance. In Fiscal Year 2014, that figure dropped to near zero, thanks primarily to the Public Welfare Department’s location at the McConnell Center, adjacent to other social service agencies. The Strafford County Community Action food pantry, for example, is one floor down and can now accommodate most requests for food.
Strafford County Community Action assists people with many other basic necessities, including security deposits, utilities, and food. As neighbors in the McConnell Center, it’s much easier to share resources and assistance. This relationship has also helped the City reduce the cost of heating aid. People in need of heating aid are now directed to Community Action Partnership of Strafford County first. As a result, the City has cut the cost on heating assistance. Welfare also utilizes grant funding for the "Rapid Rehousing" of the homeless, or those about to become homeless in Dover and the county.
The Welfare Department also makes referrals to the SHARE Fund and Dover Women’s Aid. This often prevents eviction or utilities from being shut off.
The City also saves thousands of dollars a year on assistance for the homeless. In the past, the City was required to rent motel rooms for all of the homeless population. Now, homeless individuals are directed to the area’s Coordinated Access for a homeless shelter where they can receive adequate shelter along with guidance and other assistance. Nonetheless, Welfare has seen an increase in the homeless population, and some homeless individuals had to be sheltered at a motel until shelter space is available. However, the length of time these individuals need to stay in area motels is down significantly.
All Welfare Department clients who need ongoing non-narcotic medicine can now apply for help through the Bridge Program. This program makes contact through local physicians to the pharmaceutical companies, which supply the medicine for free or at significantly reduced rates. Many can now apply for the expanded Medicaid Program (HIPP) through the State. This program will cover most medical expenses (except dental) with a small co-pay.
Transition to workers' compensation insurance plan reduces cost of coverage
In July 2014, the City of Dover transitioned from self-insuring workers' compensation for City and School staff to an insured plan. Prior to the change, the City was responsible for paying workers' compensation costs dollar for dollar. While self-insured, the City's worker's compensation budget was $670,000, which included $58,000 of additional insurance for claims over $500,000. In addition, the City was required to contribute to the State of New Hampshire's workers’ compensation Administrative Fund and the Second Injury Fund. The Second Injury Fund allows employers to limit compensation costs if an impaired employee sustains a workers' compensation injury more disabling than the same injury would leave a non-impaired worker.
In transitioning to an insured plan through the New Hampshire Risk Management Exchange, or Primex, the combined cost for the City and Schools is now $601,000. Because Primex covers all workers' compensation costs, the City no longer pays the additional $58,000 for insurance on claims exceeding $500,000.
Economic development a boost to City's fiscal health
Business and industry continue to find the City of Dover a desirable place to call home. As the state’s fastest-growing city, Dover continues to rank as a top destination to work and live. In addition to being named as one of the Top 100 Places to Live by CNN/Money Magazine, the City has also been recognized by trade and business journals as a thriving and business-friendly community.
Promoting Dover as a business destination is a top priority for the City’s Economic Development Office. Although the office is a staff of one, the efforts of community volunteers, such as the Ambassador Program, help spread the word throughout the region and beyond.
In addition, the office of Economic Development publishes 5,000 copies of a quarterly newspaper – Economic Action of Dover – which highlights the appeal of doing business in Dover.
Thanks to the local businesses and volunteers, the cost of that important publication is less than $1,200 per quarter. That cost is not borne by taxpayers, but instead is funded by advertising.
The newspaper is distributed by Economic Development Director Dan Barufaldi and a volunteer, saving the additional cost of distribution. In addition, arrangements are under way for a volunteer to handle distribution to all 18 locations throughout the City, saving the cost of mileage and freeing up additional time.
The efforts of the office of Economic Development have helped the City of Dover maintain a lower unemployment rate than the state average and continued development activity despite the fiscal difficulties experienced by many communities during and after the recession.
The local economic environment has shown significant improvement in the past fiscal year. Advanced manufacturing clusters, computer and staffing services, multi-unit residential construction and healthcare related businesses have expanded and continue to be attracted to Dover. Retail businesses experienced mixed, but mostly positive results. New restaurants and brewpubs are doing well with some traditional restaurants experiencing the challenges of increased competition.
Economic development activity continues to support local business retention and expansion. Financing for small businesses and startups, though challenged with increased banking regulations and slightly higher interest rates has improved moderately in the last fiscal year.
Through consistent outreach efforts, supported by pro-business attitudes within city government, convenient services for businesses and developers, and Dover’s enhanced quality of life, over 60 new or expanded businesses have been attracted to Dover with 500 employees during the past five years.
Staffing changes, fee assessment and digital archives help Planning Department reduce costs
In 2011, following the retirement of a City Planner, the Department of Planning and Community Development reclassified the position as an Assistant City Planner, which reduced the pay scale and expense of the salaried position.
The Department of Planning and Community Development continues to expand its archive of public records, while also encouraging the use of electronic documents by developers and applicants. As part of its community outreach efforts, the Planning Department provides hundreds of documents in digital form on the City's website. These documents include applications, regulations and detailed background information on a variety of projects and initiatives. Maintaining this archive and a commitment to an electronic workflow helps the City reduce printing costs while increasing response time. In many cases, Planning staff can email an online link to requested documents, instead of mailing paper copies at a greater expense.
City planners also continually review the cost of development to ensure application and plan review costs are supported by fees for service. Fees for service have been in place for many years. To remain responsible and competitive with comparable communities, the Department of Planning and Community Development assesses annually the cost of plan review.
These are a few examples of the many initiatives that are already realizing cost-savings and will for years to come.
Thanks for your interest in the budget process. I encourage you to reach out to me and the City Council with any questions about the budget. And please visit this online resource for regular updates on the proposed budget, once presented to the City Council on March 23.