Hanover Approves Tax Rise
Martha Solow raises her hand to ask a question about the use of reserve funds before voting during Town Meeting in the Hanover High School gym last night. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »
Willy Black moderates a vote on Article 9. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »
Hanover — The town’s municipal budget passed last night, but only after two attempts to decrease spending by about $145,000 were turned back.
Ultimately, the $22.2 million budget passed as originally proposed by the Selectboard.
In a rare move, the Hanover Finance Committee, an advisory board, came out against the budget, which left many residents unsure whether they should vote for or against the proposal.
The budget, excluding capital projects, represents a 2.4 percent increase over the current year’s. Additionally, the town plans to spend $1.8 million in capital purchases, making the grand total appropriation of all funds $24 million, a 7.2 percent increase.
Of the total budget, $8.6 million will be raised from property taxes, an increase of about $323,000, or 3.7 percent over the current year.
Residents will see a tax rate increase of about 3.4 percent, or $4.32 per $1,000 of assessed value, which is up 14 cents from the current year. The owner of a $400,000 home would see their tax bill increase by about $56 annually for a total of $1,728.
Selectboard Chairman Peter Christie explained that downshifting from the state has caused the town to pay an additional $200,000 in the proposed budget toward the New Hampshire Retirement System.
At the same time, Hanover Finance Committee Chairwoman Kristi Fenner pointed out that the town could have tapped into $240,000 from the undesignated fund balance.
When the undesignated fund has surplus money, that money can be used to offset the tax rate. But this year, the Selectboard chose to only use $120,000 to help offset the tax rate, and leave the additional $120,000 to help offset next year’s tax impact.
“I feel that the conversation is going in the direction of voting with the Hanover Finance Committee or with the Selectboard,” said Heidi Postupack, a member of the finance committee. “We are voting for or against a budget that includes costs that the town will take in.”
Ultimately, finance committee member John Ruth made a motion to decrease the budget so that the tax levy, which is the amount of dollars to be raised in taxes, would not increase more than 2 percent.
Town officials did quick calculations and announced that would involve a cut to the budget of about $143,000.
The amendment failed 55-80.
Another amendment was then made to use all $240,000 available money in the undesignated fund to lower the tax rate. But that amendment also failed 36-79.
The original warrant article eventually passed 93-30. By the time the vote was taken, it was 9:30 p.m. and the town still had seven articles ahead to decide .
Moderator Willy Black suggested a 30 second break so that everyone could stretch.
“Don’t leave, just stand up,” Black said. But her suggestion didn’t work, and people began to leave the meeting in large numbers.
“OK, the 30 seconds is up, don’t leave!” Black said desperately.
About 150 people were at last night’s Town Meeting. Of the 9,782 people on Hanover’s checklist, 672 people cast ballot votes for elected officials and zoning amendments earlier in the day.
Land Parcel Purchase Approved
The town also approved the purchase of a 0.4 acre parcel of land on Lebanon Street, but the article didn’t pass until 20 minutes of discussion, after many people questioned the Selectboard’s plans for the property.
The town has received a $600,000 anonymous donation to purchase the land, upon which the town is hoping to build a community gymnasium. There is currently a house on the parcel and that would have to be torn down.
But last night’s vote did not approve a gym, and the uncertainty of the property’s future concerned numerous voters.
Selectman Bill Geraghty explained that the anonymous donor gave the town the property with the purpose of building a gym. If a gym is not built on the property, then the donor might request that the money be returned, Geraghty explained.
“But to get the process going, we have to own the property,” Geraghty said.
Town Manager Julia Griffin explained that the town will look into building a gym during the next year and the proposal could be back before voters in a year. If a gym isn’t built, then an alternative solution might have to be proposed, or the town might need to resell the property.
“About 10 minutes ago I thought this was the best proposal in town and now I think it’s the worse one ever,” Jeff Acker said. “I stayed here to vote in favor of this and I’ve just changed my opinion.”
Ultimately, the proposal passed by an overwhelming majority.
Earlier in the day, residents approved three of four zoning amendments at the polls. The amendment that failed would have prevented “non-household or farm animals” from being on lots in rural residential lots less than three acres.
The amendments that passed included one proposed by Dartmouth College to allow animation on athletic scoreboard. The college is hoping to build a new scoreboard on the football field that will allow an animatronic screen to show playbacks and game highlights.
Elizabeth Cornell also won a contested seat for Etna Library Trustee, beating out Michelle Guiliano-King.
Sarah Brubeck can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3223.