New Hampshire's political experts who fill the pages of our managed media love to toss around their own conceptions of trends. And admittedly, watching the State House can be at times mildly entertaining.
Often this small circle forgets that Concord is not the center of the Granite State universe. Other events do actually occur here — very expensive events such as annual meetings.
The Coalition of NH Taxpayers works with citizens and activists in many towns and schools around the state. Normally, we do not deal with city politics but it was almost impossible to not notice a tax revolt brewing when Mayor Baines was tossed from office, Laconia adopted a spending cap, Portsmouth elected a fiscally responsible mayor, Dover elected one our favorite guys, Dave Scott, and Nashua flipped their tax and spenders for a new group which included our old pal Fred Teeboom. That is a clock cleaning at the city level not seen in a very long time.
Now comes town and school meetings. Here are some results from news accounts and our members on the ground:
A new ally in Merrimack, “Merrimack Cares,” may keep, after the deliberative session, $1.4 million from being dumped into the town's budget. This comes after a 61.3% increase in spending over the last five years. Next vote is in April.
One of the new groups, Plainfield Taxpayers, is having a successful first few months with a few solid wins. They won the issue for future annual school budget day of the week, Saturdays instead of the current Friday nights, 299-184.
The PT candidate for school board did not get in, although he quadrupled the number of votes he got over last year. He'll run again.
The total number of voters doubled the number of past years, and PT is convinced people turned out because of info on the new website www.plainfieldtaxpayers.org and 2 mailings of 1,000 each.
“Monadnock School Taxpayers” won 11 of 12 issues they listed on their voter guide. Our web genius helped start their new site, www.monadnocktaxpayers.org
Hudson: If the Budget committee approved, it passed, if not – well take a guess. Incumbents took a beating - two new selectmen. Voted down: just under $2 million.
Derry, and the Alliance of Derry Taxpayers: All the GOOD GUYS won in Derry for Town Council. The establishment is reeling. AND the Charter Commission Question asking for an "Official Ballot Town Council" Charter Commission where they can't mess with the charter OTHER than adding official ballot voting...
PASSED 60%-40% (needed simple majority) the special election will be in 8 or 9 weeks.
Weare: The Logan Darrow Clements path of destruction went right down to the selectmen seats. Both candidates who tied their wagons to the wing nut lost. The Souter article failed two to one but it was so poorly sabotaged it is hard to say what the vote meant.
Bethlehem: Voters nix town administrator and Tri-Town Business Park.
Littleton: School regionalization with the Profile School District and SAU withdrawal, both passed Tuesday night. A $2.9 million Opera House plan was defeated.
Hillsboro/Deering School budget passed...for the first time since 2002.
Jaffery passed a $9.4M bond for school renovations after years of defeating the big double digit million dollar building projects. A newly organized taxpayer group is coming there soon. Smart spending on display.
Hopkinton, with a “taxpayer group” of sorts, defeated a new petitioned warrant article $2.8 million senior center, a move that probably caught many by surprise. It seemed Hopkinton spending was endless.
Gilford: CNHT worked with Gilford taxpayers to pass SB2 two years ago. This year a $2.96 million Police Station lost 1092 – 645. Connie Grant of the budget committee won a selectman seat. She was supported by the Gilford Taxpayers Association. The tax group opposed two small amounts for a historical society and airport authority both of which passed. An aquifer ordinance passed handily.
The mobocracy of the traditional meeting was on display in Belmont where a $5.8 million school auditorium (new spending fad) was defeated in a jam-packed meeting but reconsidered after enough voters left to flip the vote and reschedule for later this month. We expect SB2 may be popular in Belmont next year. The tax rate there will explode if this passes at the next meeting.
Bristol voters rejected an effort to abolish the Budget Committee in favor of an “advisory” one. In effect, no Bud Com. This was a petitioned warrant article with almost all the signatures coming from ...firemen. It seems the annual 10% increases of past years were not enough and the firemen were looking for about 20% this time. The Bud Com said hold on and the rest is politics NH style. Check the local web site there at www.newfoundconcerns.org
Windsor's Town Meeting had a film crew in it for the first time ever this year. Local CNHT member JJ Valera petitioned for a court order after being refused permission to film. Much to his credit, and unlike many elected officials we meet, Windsor Moderator Pat Hines apologized at the meeting for having “a bad day” when he at first denied Mr. Valera access. He said he had log-skidder problems and was tired. I tend to believe anyone who says that.
Hampton voters rejected the annual budget for the third year in a row.
Amherst: Every big ticket spending item (aside from the operating budgets) was defeated, most by large margins. Here's a summary of what went down in flames:
Redesign of transfer station: $350K (bond)
Building for Peabody Mill Environmental Center: $250K
Fire Dept "command vehicle" (SUV) replacement: $33K
DPW Truck replacement: $161K (over 5 years of lease)
New Police officer: $28K (for remainder of year, $39K annually in future years)
Souhegan High School "Wellness Center" (gym expansion): $568K
Total saved by Amherst "no voters": $1.4 million dollars
Tilton just spent $4,311,782.00. A warrant article to spend $268,500 on 7 acres of land in town for future municipal use was defeated. It was assumed by most in attendance that this parcel would be the future home of the new police station, although one has not yet been approved by voters. Another warrant article for $35K was passed to complete an architectural and engineering study for a new station and another $15K was passed to complete an "assessment" of the police department. (The $15K was originally intended to pay for an investigation of the police dept due to the many complaints and lawsuits against it in the past two years.)
Pelham: Not so fast with the warrant article to abolish the Budget Committee – they stay!
Contoocook Valley schools will not be buying laptops for every new sixth grade student.
Meredith bucked the trend and passed a new $2.3 million police station. They took $264,00 from the land use change tax and $500,000 from surplus to pass the deal. So it could be called a frugal spending proposal.
One of the largest spankings went to Bradford Selectmen who lost the “free” health care part of their selectman's compensation. The police station bond for $2.8M went down as well.
Wilton/Lyndeborough School District voters nixed two teacher positions: $82,978 and lowered the budget by $63,276.
After a huge campaign by firemen from within and without Goffstown, the 24/7 coverage petition lost and voters saved $221,258 — a toe in the door figure to say the least. The firefighter candidate won but has not extra cash “on hand.” Voters passed a $300 thousand dollar kindergarten proposal presented as “no cost” to the town.
New Boston: $75,000.00 in seed money for a community center – poof – gone.
Six-town Gov. Wentworth School District will not be seeing a $20 million dollar middle school. New Durham is looking at leaving.
East Kingston voters panned the new library by 4 votes and passed a police station bond by exactly the number of votes needed. Both were $850,000 proposals.
And in what may have evolved from a twice defeated new middle school bond of $24.7 million into a raging turf war between New London and Sutton's competing school spenders saw this very expensive project pass with 78% of the voters approving.
Exeter: Essentially, out of a $91 Million offering, Exeter voters decisively turned down one significant spending article. It was a bond issue item for $6.3 million to restore downtown Exeter with the focus on burying utility lines. It was considered to be too expensive for such public funding and 2 selectmen out of 5 had voted against putting it on the warrant. Instead of the required 60% it received only 43%. Actually, 220 more citizens in total voted on this question than on the town operating budget.
As for “land preservation” purchases to block new homes and drive up current residential values, the bloom is off the rose in Hollis, Brookline, and Mont Vernon. But next door in Mason $2 million was appropriated for 550 acres. A closer look reveals the reason was a federal grant seals the deal. So once again taxpayers were looking at the bottom line.
The most interesting vote was in Bedford where after showing the rest of NH how to bankrupt a municipality schoolies who packed the meeting balked at spending a little under $7 million for a new connector road. Look for some rigged special meetings to jam the spending through anyway. The officials in Bedford are not beyond heads we win - tails you lose warrant articles to get their way.
As more taxpayer revolt news comes in CNHT will print it. No other media outlet will.