"Real liberty is neither found in despotism or the extremes of democracy, but in moderate governments.
Alexander Hamilton

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Town Counsel: Spending Excess Operating Budget Does Not Violate Municipal Budget Act

This was discussed briefly at last Thursday's BoS meeting. Per Town counsel, the BoS are free to spend down excess operating budget and transfer money from line items  but only to the point that it does not exceed the total amount appropriated by the legislative body.
The Selectmen awhile back approved the purchase of a rotary lift and a new police cruiser using excess funds in the operating budget. Both items were vetted through the Capital Improvements Program Committee. Town counsel believes that purchasing these items without town meeting approval is within the legal realm of the BoS.
The question I still have is where to draw the line on large capital purchases. Typically, there is a stand alone warrant article at town meeting that itemizes what is being proposed for a program of capital improvements. Legal or not, voters at town meeting should have the opportunity for an up or down vote and to amend articles if they object to certain purchases.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

New Police Chief Sworn In. Welcome to Chief Monaghan and Thank you to Chief Wetherbee

BoS Chair administering the oath to Chief Monaghan

Chief Monaghan announcing the promotion of Officers Bagan and Melanson 

HB 1802 Return of Donor Towns. Would Increase Moultonboro Property Tax Assessment by $4.3 Million.

HB 1802 was referenced in an article on the front page of this week Meredith News. It is a simple bill that would require municipalities to remit any excess statewide education property tax to the state for deposit in the general fund. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Henle( d) Merr. 12 . The bill was referred to the NH House Ways and Means Committee which will hold a public hearing January 23rd. 
The full chart of the estimated impact of this bill on municipalities can be found when you click on the bill link above and scroll down.

Hard to imagine a bill that will negatively impact so many towns even getting out of committee, but it wouldn't hurt to contact our legislators and the Ways and Means Committee and tell them just say no!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Senate Bill 438 would allow the secretary of state to postpone town elections in cases of emergencies.

(I certainly remember standing out in the snow last March (briefly) and it was brutal. Voter turnout was the lowest in years. Should the town or the NH SOS make the call? I'm not sure, but it should be legal to do so, especially when it is about local elections only.)

Monitor staff
Wednesday, January 17, 2018
The scene last March is hard to forget: a mass of scheduled town meetings and local elections across the state, and a powerful blizzard threatening to derail them. Facing dangerous driving conditions, many towns opted to delay the elections entirely – a first in more than a century. As the snow piled up, so did questions about whether towns had the authority to postpone meeting day; the secretary of state’s office declared that they did not, while Gov. Chris Sununu suggested they could but shouldn’t.
Many towns did anyway.
Ten months after the confusing and contentious day, lawmakers are seeking to clarify the election postponement procedure. Senate Bill 438 would allow the secretary of state to postpone town elections in cases of emergencies.
Under the bill, that delay can be triggered by the governor, under a formal state of emergency, or it can be made at the request of the town moderator or town clerk in the case of a weather emergency or “imminent threat to public health or safety.” If the election is delayed, it will be automatically rescheduled to two weeks after the initial voting day, with a requirement that towns give ample notice of the change.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Regina Birdsell, R-Hampstead, is a bipartisan fix to an unclear situation. But town officials have taken issue with the bill’s underlying mechanism: putting the postponement decision into the hands of the secretary of state’s office. At a hearing Tuesday, clerks and moderators objected to the change, which they said would take away a vital lever of local control.
“It takes away our ability to self-govern,” said Lori Radke, Bedford town clerk.
Radke argued that because towns, not the secretary of state, are responsible for all costs associated with local elections – including ballot expenses and wages for personnel – it should be towns that make the call on what’s financially viable.
Other local officials agreed. Newmarket Town Manager Steve Fournier said that local officials often have the best grasp on what makes sense for their towns during a weather emergency. Newmarket, for example, is close-knit and may suffer fewer travel complications in the event of a storm, while neighboring towns might face other conditions, he said.
“I feel very strongly that moderators are in a better position to make these decisions,” he said.
But Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan said the bill is meant to allow for flexibility and to ensure fairness to voters. Among the concerns raised last spring centered on cooperative school districts comprising multiple towns; if one town delayed, its voters might be swayed by the voting decisions of the other towns.
SB 438 would allow the secretary of state to take a statewide view and postpone elections for whole school districts. And he said the bill would account for large holes in election procedure under RSA 669 – holes he said were exposed during the uncertainty last March.
“What occurred last spring was on a very large scale,” Scanlan said. “And in that type of a situation ... it’s going to be recognizing a situation that’s either regional or statewide, in a matter that is uniform so that all voters know in that region what to expect.”
And according to co-sponsor Sen. Jeff Woodburn, D-Whitefield, the bill was meant to carve out a middle ground amid the confusion.
“This committee has to find some balance,” he said. “We have sides that are unwilling to compromise, and there should be a way to clarify the law.”
Woodburn said that, while he values local control, the system has to account for state planning as well.
“We are not a feudal society. ... We have to have some basic coordination,” he said.

(Ethan DeWitt can be reached at edewitt@cmonitor.com, or on Twitter at @edewittNH.)

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Moultonboro Operating Budget and Appropriations Since 2013

A quick and brief post here on spending. Property valuations change, the tax rate fluctuates with it, but what about spending?
I looked only at the town reports for the past 5 years and all these numbers below come directly from them.
I don't have the final proposed 2018 numbers, but I suspect that it may be a bit of an uptick based mostly on the increased capital projects.
The operating budget ( as approved by Town Meeting) has dropped for four consecutive years. Total appropriations spiked in 2017, but were 2% less than 2013.

Editorial: Big problem with SB 193 is that it’s unconstitutional

The following editorial appears in today's Concord Monitor. Money laundering is a good name for this voucher scheme. A question I think taxpayers and voters in our NH House district should ask is how will this bill (if it becomes law), impact our local public schools? Of our three Representatives, only Glenn Cordelli voted in favor of it,  and he has become well known in his circles as an anti-public education proponent.  One need only check out his Twitter feed which has been almost entirely devoted to so-called " school choice". Despite the fact that he sits on the NH House Education Committee, he has yet to appear before any of the school boards in his district to explain to them and constituents why he supports sending tax dollars to private religious schools and away from local control. Maybe also explain to the boards why he thinks they are not doing a good job educating our children. Shouldn't he care what the voters in his district think? 
January 14th 2018
Launder a taxpayer dollar, say by passing it through a so-called scholarship organization, and it’s still a taxpayer dollar, or in the case of the latest school voucher bill, 95 cents, since the organization takes a nickel of every tax dollar as an administrative fee.
Senate Bill 193 is yet another attempt to get around the constitutional prohibition against using public funds to support religious schools or religion-based instruction. The bill passed the House and has the backing of the governor, but there are many reasons for the Senate to defeat it. Not the least of them is this: The bill is unconstitutional.
The federal Constitution’s ban on public support of sectarian education under the Establishment Clause suffers from wrong-headed U.S. Supreme Court decisions – more about that later. The New Hampshire Constitution even more explicitly bars the transfer, directly or indirectly, of taxpayer money to religion-based institutions. The state attorney general’s office, however, seems to be confused by the bill.
Early in the bill’s history, Associate Attorney General Anne Edwards told the House Education Committee that, “We have to change our constitution if we want to have money – state, public money – going to religious schools.” Late last month, Edwards reversed course and said, after consulting with Attorney General Gordon MacDonald, that a revised form of the bill would be constitutional. It will be up to the state Supreme Court to decide which opinion is correct should the bill become law.
State efforts to direct public funds to private schools, including religious schools, are being promoted nationally by school choice advocacy organizations. Their campaign gathered steam after a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court decision that, by a 5-4 majority, ruled constitutional a Cleveland, Ohio, school voucher program that directed public money to religious schools. That decision was wrong, as Supreme Court Justice David Souter of New Hampshire wrote in the minority’s dissent.The court’s majority, all Republican appointees, ignored precedent by narrowing the separation between church and state. The ruling, Souter said at the time, is “potentially tragic.” Souter’s words are worth reading today. We hope the state’s senators will do so.
“Religious teaching at taxpayer expense simply cannot be cordoned from taxpayer politics, and every major religion currently espouses social positions that provoke intense opposition. Not all taxpaying Protestant citizens, for example, will be content to underwrite the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church condemning the death penalty. Nor will all of America’s Muslims acquiesce in paying for the endorsement of the religious Zionism taught in many religious Jewish schools, which combines ‘a nationalistic sentiment’ in support of Israel with a ‘deeply religious’ element. Nor will every secular taxpayer be content to support Muslim views on differential treatment of the sexes, or, for that matter, to fund the espousal of a wife’s obligation of obedience to her husband, presumably taught in any schools adopting the articles of faith of the Southern Baptist Convention. Views like these, and innumerable others, have been safe in the sectarian pulpits and classrooms of this Nation not only because the Free Exercise Clause protects them directly, but because the ban on supporting religious establishment has protected free exercise, by keeping it relatively private. With the arrival of vouchers in religious schools, that privacy will go, and along with it will go confidence that religious disagreement will stay moderate.”
SB 193 would create a voucher system open to about one-third of the state’s students. A qualifying student and family would, depending on a variety of circumstances, receive between $3,500 to well upward of $5,000 in state funds that could be used to help cover the cost of private school tuition, secular or religious, or to pay for home schooling that may or may not be religion-based.
Though tremendous inequities still exist between property-poor and property-rich school districts, New Hampshire arguably has the best public schools in the nation. SB 193 would rob them of the ability to maintain that status. It would force taxpayers to support beliefs they believe to be wrong, objectionable or immoral. Passage would almost certainly result in discrimination against students with a disability, since private schools are not obligated to accommodate their needs or accept them.
Worst of all though, passage of SB 193 could bring about what Justice Souter feared, a society that mixed political debate with religious strife at the expense of its children’s education. Senators and Gov. Sununu: Reject this bill for the good of the state, the Constitution and public education.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Moultonboro Budget Hearing Thursday February 8th at 7pm. Use of "Leftover" Funds Still Debated

A second hearing if necessary with be held the following week on February 15th, also at 7pm. Along with the budget hearing, there will also be a required public hearing for a proposed warrant article to allow or not allow KENO in Moultonboro. ( Here is a good Q&A from the NHMA on KENO and kindergarten funding.) Of some interest and not yet determined by the BoS, is where to place the KENO question. According to NHMA, the question can be placed on the " official ballot" and voted at the ballot box on the second Tuesday of March or it can be voted on at the open meeting by a written ballot.

Last night, the BoS once again discussed using leftover monies in the operating budget to purchase items not specifically appropriated by the legislative body.
In a nutshell, here is the gist of  the disagreement: There are leftover monies in the operating budget, enough to cover a rotary lift for the DPW ( $62K) and a new police cruiser ( $46K.) Both were reviewed by the CIPC for the 2018 capital cycle. TA Walter Johnson is proposing that purchases can be made with the leftover operating funds as money was appropriated for the operating budget. The BoS always have the discretion to move money from line item to line item and to purchase things under the operating budget necessary to operate the town. While the two items to be purchased are called " capital" items, it is only by definition, as the amount exceeds the threshold established by the town for items to be considered capital purchases.
Selectmen Joel Mudgett and Selectmen Josh Bartlett both feel that the purchase of these items violates the NH Municipal Budget Act, specifically RSA 32:8"No board of selectmen, school board, village district commissioners or any other officer, employee, or agency of the municipality acting as such shall pay or agree to pay any money, or incur any liability involving the expenditure of any money, for any purpose in excess of the amount appropriated by the legislative body for that purpose, or for any purpose for which no appropriation has been made". 
Joel raised the point of why not get town counsel to weigh in on this and give an opinion as to whether this violates the Municipal Budget Act? I don't believe a decision was reached on that question. Josh believes that no matter what, the legislative body should have had an opportunity to vote on whether to purchase these items. 
Here is a scenario which makes it a bit more clear to me and why town meeting needs to approve these purchases: Hypothetically, a town with traditional town meeting, has $500k left over in its operating budget. Said town wants to buy a new $450k fire truck and was planning on placing that question in the next town meeting warrant. Instead, they decide to use $450K from the leftover funds by transferring the monies from various line items to the Fire Dept. operating budget and vote to purchase the fire truck now without legislative body approval. Would that be legal under the Municipal Budget Act? Would it be okay to bypass the legislative body? No and no.  If it is not okay to do that with a $450K fire truck, it shouldn't be okay to do that with a $46K police cruiser or $62K rotary lift. 
One final thought on this and why I hope the BoS get this right.  No individual selectman can approve/ disapprove anything. The whole board by majority vote makes decisions and it matters not if you vote no or abstain. The entire board as a whole is responsible. 

Mark Hounsell declares candidacy for Congress

January 11, 2018 - Contact Mark Hounsell, 603-832-8371

Mark Hounsell declares candidacy for Congress

Today I am officially declaring that I am a candidate for  New Hampshire First Congressional District seat.  I will seek the republican nomination that will be decided by the voters on Tuesday September 11, 2018

I have commenced my campaign.  I am building  a grassroots campaign. As long as the money lasts I will do my best to be fully engaged in addressing the issues of the day that are relevant to the office I seek.

We, as a free people unified in our blessed Granite State, a sovereign entity within this great American nation, deserves a servant in the United States Congress who is free from any partisan grasp.  We need a partisan outlier if you will. One who has a true record of working with all sides to find the best solutions to the many issues facing us all at this time. We need a representative who has wide experience at many levels of government.  We need a representative who is transparent and who can articulate directly to an inquiring public who possess every right to know the affairs of their government. We need a representative who is authentic and fearless.  We need a representative who is eager to fight for the things he believes in. Most of all we deserve a representative who knows our beloved state through and through, one of us who truly loves our home. I am that person. I have plenty of thoughts on a number of issues that we must address.

I have spent most of the second half of my sixty six years serving in elected public service in one capacity or another.  The one thing I have learned is that voters make their decisions based upon issues and mine will be an issue oriented campaign.  I take the necessary time to develop a position on every issue.  When I speak out it is after considerable thought and prayer has been given to the matter.  Yet, at the same time I leave open the option that I will change a position if someone is able to convince me with argument and evidence that I am wrong.  To be closed-minded is to live in fear and ignorance.  It is  wisdom, discernment, and a pure heart that is needed on all matters of government as well as with interpersonal relationships.

I approach politics as I approach life.  A three cord strand is not easily broken.  I realize the best approach to the future is not with anger, fear and hatred, but with faith, hope and charity.  I believe the American Dream is still available for us and our posterity.  I do not apologize for embracing American exceptionalism and for possessing a patriotic fervor.  At no time in human history has there ever been such a God-Fearing nation as the United States of America.  A noble nation whose people are committed to liberty and justice for all.  It is my faith in God, my hope for the fulfillment of his promises, and the love that can be expressed from one to another that encourages me towards continuing to do my part to keep our nation safe and secure from all alarms - foreign and domestic.

My four decades of experience in politics and in state, county and local government is an asset for all the people of district one. I am driven to use the talents God has blessed me with to serve the people of my state.  I begin this campaign with a belief that service to others is paramount to a Christian life.  I proceed with confidence in my ability to stand for what is right rather than what is politically convenient.  As my mentor, Governor Meldrim Thomson Jr. so aptly declared, I shall continue to put “people above politics.”

I look forward to meeting with the people of district one in the weeks and months ahead.  I will press on towards victory in November as long as I am a viable candidate, and that includes having a campaign that is financially viable as well.  I appreciate the commitments of all the others seeking this same office and I respect them. I recognize that by offering their talents to the people they are fulfilling a sacred and patriotic duty. I commend them for offering themselves as candidates.

Thank you for your kind attention.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

“It seems that they take things out of local control and into the hands of legislators,we need more local control, not less.”

“When legislators pass legislation that impacts schools, it would be helpful to know how it impacts their local schools. Not all districts are the same.” Gov. Wentworth Regional School District Superintendent Kathy Cuddy Egbert, speaking to the School Board on Monday evening, Jan. 8

She was referring to the recently passed school voucher bill, SB 193 and the potential impact to the cooperative school district with a potential loss of funding of $127,000.  Rep. Crawford and Rep.W. Marsh voted against it. Rep. Cordelli voted in favor of the bill. The discussion occurred at the January 8th Gov. Wentworth School district school board meeting. ( Granite State News 1/11/18). She also referenced HB 1452 currently in the Education Committee.  This bill proposes to change the funding formula for the Gov. Wentworth School District for each member town to be based 100% on equalized property values. The impact to Tuftonboro would be an increase of more than $3 Million in local property taxes. A co-sponsor of the bill is Glenn Cordelli who represents (?) Tuftonboro taxpayers.

As noted in the article, Wolfeboro board member Stacy Trites spoke up to say that residents are told to reach out to their legislators, but in her opinion, it is a two way street. She asked, “Are any reaching out to us?"
Funny how those that decry "government control" are the most active in taking away local control when it fits their ideological litmus test.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Lack of Rental Housing in Carroll County Subject of Panel in Ossipee

The following article was in Wednsday's Conway Daily Sun.  According to the article which referenced the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority 2017 Rental Cost Survey, median gross rent in the county for a two-bedroom unit is $1,040, which would require an income of at least $41,600. Only 10 percent of rental units in the survey were below the affordable rent figure of $890 based on household median income of $35,602. 
What can residents do? Per Mount Washington Valley Housing Coalition Executive Director Victoria Laracy start by asking that master plans and zoning be changed. A town's master plan drives its zoning. "Talk to your planning boards and become engaged." 

Panel: Lack of rentals cause for concern

Conway Daily Sun
OSSIPEE — More civic engagement at local and state level is needed to reverse the lack of affordable rental property in Carroll County, said Mount Washington Valley Housing Coalition Executive Director Victoria Laracy at a countywide panel discussion held Tuesday.
The panel discussion, "Housing Challenges in Carroll County," held at Camp Calumet in Ossipee was part of the Carroll County Roundtable, one of four quarterly Public Health Advisory Council (PHAC) meetings convened by Carroll County Coalition for Public Health (C3PH), which is among the 13 regional public health networks located in New Hampshire.
PHAC is made up of key community leaders and works collaboratively to address the regional priorities identified in C3PH's Community Health Improvement Plan. Carroll County Coalition for Public Health is an initiative of Granite United Way.
About 75 people attended.
Besides Laracy, the other panelists were Kathy Barnard, chairman of the Eastern Lakes Region Housing Coalition, and Cathy Kuhn, Ph.D., the executive director of the New Hampshire Coalition to End Homelessness.
Emily Benson, C3PH PHAC coordinator, introduced the speakers and described the state of rental housing in Carroll County.
"The really scary thing is we are now at zero percent vacancy rate for two-bedroom units," said Benson. The recent "cold, cold temperatures we have been dealing with," Benson said, turns lack of housing into "a life-or-death issue."
Benson got her numbers from the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority 2017 Rental Cost Survey. The authority says median gross rent in the county for a two-bedroom unit is $1,040, which would require an income of at least $41,600. Only 10 percent of rental units in the survey were below the affordable rent figure of $890 based on household median income of $35,602.
Benson said the number of homeless is underreported because surveys don't count people sleeping on friends' couches.
Laracy said the MWV Housing Coalition serves 13 towns in Northern Carroll County as well as Fryeburg and Brownfield in Maine.
She said rents have been going up but incomes have been flat. In addition, by 2030, over 50 percent of the population will be over 65 years old.
"We have no available rentals to bring in young families, or the millennials looking to come to the valley to work; there's none available," said Laracy.
"In 12 years, we really need to start looking at that because we are aging out and there is going to be no one here to take care of that aging population or to fill those jobs in our community."
She said that since 1988, New Hampshire has had an affordable housing fund that provides loans and grants to developers for affordable housing. Over the past few years, this fund helped finance the 32-unit Conway Pines workforce housing and 30-unit senior living apartments.
But another funding source, the Rural Development Grant, has been discontinued.
"So we really need more money put into the affordable housing fund in the state of New Hampshire to have available to developers to be able to have those tax credit projects," said Laracy. "In the past 20 years that the affordable housing fund has been in effect, we have done very poorly as a state. We have not invested in housing."
New Hampshire, according to Laracy, has contributed only about $10 million to the fund, while states such as Vermont have contributed much more. Vermont's governor, she said, recently agreed to a $35 million housing bond in the state budget. 

"We really had to fight this past April to get $2.5 million for our legislators to invest in housing in New Hampshire," said Laracy. "That is where the community needs to step in and talk to our local representatives."
In a phone interview, Laracy said "recapitalization of this fund will help support new rental developments that will provide attractive incentives for employers to relocate to the Granite State and the Mount Washington Valley.
"The affordable housing fund was created in 1988 by the Legislature to provide market rate loans and grants to developers to build rental housing that is affordable to a range of incomes. By the statute, any project that receives assistance through the fund must dedicate at least half of its housing units to households at or below 80 percent of the area mean income."
During a question-and-answer session, Lance Zack of White Mountain Restorative Justice asked about short-term rentals' impact on northern Carroll County.
Laracy replied that in the past three years, the number of Airbnb rentals in the valley has jumped from about 400 to a total of about 1,000. She said second homes are being flipped to Airbnb rather than long-term rentals.
"It's possibly something municipalities can look at," said Laracy, adding that towns may be able to implement restrictions and incentives. "We are actively looking at that. I know Realtor groups in the valley are, as well."
Laracy said residents can help make their towns more welcoming to affordable housing by asking that master plans and zoning be changed. She said that a town's master plan drives its zoning.
"Talk to your planning boards and become engaged," said Laracy.
Benson said the conversation about housing will continue in Tamworth on Jan. 23 at a meeting called "Barriers and Opportunities for Housing in Carroll County." This meeting, which will take place Tri-County Community Action, 448 White Mountain Highway, starts at 9 a.m. and is open to the public.
For more information about the Carroll County Coalition for Public Health, go to c3ph.org .