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Forum, May 5: Support Hanover’s Proposed Budget


Friday, May 04, 2018
Support Proposed Hanover Budget

This Tuesday evening at Town Meeting, the Hanover Selectboard will present the fiscal 2018-19 budget for voter approval. The Hanover Finance Committee recommends the adoption of this proposal, which would result in a 2.44 percent (or 16 cent) increase in the combined town general fund and fire fund tax rates. A home valued at $450,000 would see a tax increase of $72 — an amount that does not include anticipated increases in school- and county-related assessments.

In the Finance Committee’s judgment, the Selectboard engaged in a thoughtful and rigorous budget process and exhibited a sensitivity to the financial impact on taxpayers while considering community improvements and the need to shore up funding of capital reserves. The resulting increase is similar to that of recent years.

There will be a full discussion of the proposed budget at Town Meeting, and any voter in attendance may make a motion to amend the budget. For more information prior to the meeting, voters can visit HanoverNH.org or pick up a copy of the annual town report at Town Hall or either of the libraries.

On behalf of the Finance Committee, I encourage all interested voters to attend Town Meeting and engage in the discussion. Tuesday’s meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the Hanover High School gymnasium.

Kari Asmus, Chair

Hanover Finance Committee

Reject SB 2 in Hanover

Article 7 on Hanover’s Town Meeting warrant asks voters to approve a measure that would greatly alter how Town Meeting is conducted in the future. The measure would replace the current system, in which voters discuss and then immediately vote on the Selectboard’s budget and related measures. The proposed system, called SB 2 (for New Hampshire Senate Bill 2), would have a deliberative session of interested voters, to be followed a month later by an all-day ballot session to approve or reject the budget adopted at the deliberative session.

The Hanover Finance Committee has voted unanimously to oppose Article 7 and the adoption of the SB 2 method. Its major problem, which has arisen in some towns that have adopted it, is that attendance at the deliberative session is very low, often one-tenth of what is usual at Town Meetings. This allows a very small group, sometimes well-organized for this purpose, to replace the Selectboard’s proposed budget. Under SB 2, the voters at the later all-day balloting have no choice but to accept or reject a budget that has been proposed at the deliberative session. Besides increasing the risk of a “tyranny of a minority,” the SB 2 system adds to uncertainty in the budget process. Town officials must do extra work to plan for contingencies in the event that the initial budget is defeated and a default budget must be adopted.

The Finance Committee believes that traditional Town Meeting is the form of government most likely to produce a thoughtful and well-vetted budget that will best serve the people of our town. For the past several years, Town Meeting has had a healthy, robust discussion on the budget, which is one indication that we have a system of governance that works and functions as it should. SB 2 is not a prudent alternative, and the committee believes Article 7 should be rejected.

William A. Fischel, Vice Chair

Hanover Finance Committee

Discussion Lacking on SB 2 Change

On Tuesday, Hanover will vote on changing from a traditional Town Meeting to an SB 2 format. Given their support for such a format, I am surprised that the proponents of the change have neither arranged for nor participated in any significant discussion of its merits. This is an important decision and should involve extensive, careful thought. Instead, the petitioned article was presented on short notice and will be subject to a yes or no vote like that for town officers and zoning and planning ordinances. This seems inconsistent.

Although I am comfortable with the current system, I am very open to listening to arguments of the proponents of the change and would welcome an opportunity to discuss its merits with them. Unfortunately, it appears I am not being given that chance. This is sufficient reason for me to vote against Article 7.

Peter J. Murdza Jr.

Hanover

Don’t Cut Heart From Town Meeting

On Tuesday, Hanover voters will be asked to vote on Article 7, which asks if the town should adopt the provisions of RSA 40:13, known as SB 2.

SB 2 was created by the Legislature and designed to put voters back in control of local school and town budgets and to virtually eliminate property tax increases. SB 2, which involves breaking up Town Meeting into a March “deliberative session” and a daylong vote in May on an “official ballot,” has resulted in three things, none of which have been good for communities or school districts.

First, experience around the state has shown that very few people attend their communities’ SB 2 deliberative sessions. Poor attendance leaves the proposed operating budget, bond issues, capital budget and other warrant articles subject to wholesale amendment by a few voters with a specific agenda to cut budgets. At the deliberative session, a handful of voters can move to amend, and even zero out, proposed budgets. Those stripped-down budgets then become the final budgets presented to voters in May. Gone are all the hours of work committed by Selectboard members and the Finance Committee to review, revise and approve a proposed budget for the voters’ consideration.

Second, voters on Town Meeting Day are often unaware of the deliberative session maneuvering that led to the official ballot before them. Proposed expenditures, having experienced significant cuts during the deliberative session, are either approved unwittingly or voters are asked to vote down such cuts and then asked to help the Selectboard approve a revised budget at a second round of deliberative session and special Town Meeting a few weeks later. What a mess.

Third, SB 2 takes the heart right out of Town Meeting. Please vote to retain the best of local democracy in Hanover and vote “no” on Article 7.

Sharon Nordgren

Hanover

The writer is a former member and chair of the Hanover Selectboard.

SB 2 Creates Serious Problems

Under present procedures, the Hanover town budget is presented for consideration, possible amendment and adoption at the business portion of Town Meeting, which is open to all citizens and held in the evening on Town Meeting Day. Some wish to change this procedure so that items considered during the business portion of the meeting, including the budget, are then voted on by paper ballot on another day. This is the SB 2 alternative presented in Article 7 that is on the ballot on Tuesday.

Those favoring SB 2 argue that many are unable to attend the evening Town Meeting and so are unable to vote on business items, including the budget. The Selectboard has voted unanimously against the adoption of the SB 2 procedure.

It is important to facilitate access to voting. But the SB 2 procedure creates serious problems. Under present New Hampshire law, initial citizen voting on business issues, including the budget, must still occur in open meetings. Under SB 2, those required meetings would be held in one or more deliberative sessions weeks before the Town Meeting. Those sessions will almost certainly occur in the evening so that citizen participation would require evening attendance, as is the case with Town Meeting now.

Citizen participation in those meetings would be at least as inconvenient as participation in the one evening meeting held under our present procedures. Those with particular concerns, budgetary or otherwise, have opportunity for active participation and advocacy under the current procedure — by presenting their proposals to the Selectboard in its preparatory meetings. Most important, the SB 2 procedure could require submission to the full Town Meeting of a budget the Selectboard does not approve. This may be precisely what some advocates may prefer. I, for one, believe we have very direct control over those elected to the Selectboard and I can well protect my budgetary interests in that way. I do not favor town procedures subject to hijack and substantial additional complication by one or another factional interest.

Arthur Gardiner

Hanover