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Peterborough

No questions on town budget

Deliberative session features little debate; petition resolution yields discussion

  • A call to support a constitutional amendment to regulate political spending was the only article to drew discussion at Peterborough's Deliberative Session on Tuesday.
  • A call to support a constitutional amendment to regulate political spending was the only article to drew discussion at Peterborough's Deliberative Session on Tuesday.
  • A call to support a constitutional amendment to regulate political spending was the only article to drew discussion at Peterborough's Deliberative Session on Tuesday.
  • A call to support a constitutional amendment to regulate political spending was the only article to drew discussion at Peterborough's Deliberative Session on Tuesday.
  • A call to support a constitutional amendment to regulate political spending was the only article to drew discussion at Peterborough's Deliberative Session on Tuesday.
  • A call to support a constitutional amendment to regulate political spending was the only article to drew discussion at Peterborough's Deliberative Session on Tuesday.
  • A call to support a constitutional amendment to regulate political spending was the only article to drew discussion at Peterborough's Deliberative Session on Tuesday.
  • A call to support a constitutional amendment to regulate political spending was the only article to drew discussion at Peterborough's Deliberative Session on Tuesday.
  • A call to support a constitutional amendment to regulate political spending was the only article to drew discussion at Peterborough's Deliberative Session on Tuesday.

PETERBOROUGH — A call to support a Constitutional amendment to regulate political spending was the only article to draw discussion at Peterborough’s Deliberative Session on Tuesday.

Sixty-six residents took voting cards at the session, 30 more than showed up last year. But the only opportunity they had to use them was when Moderator Phil Runyon asked for a show of cards on whether to allow non-residents to speak about the petition article on the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. They agreed to allow that, so Jay Iselin of Harrisville was able to argue against the article, which drew support from everyone else who spoke up.

The Deliberative Session is where voters can discuss warrant articles that will be voted on at the polls in the second session of Town Meeting, which will be on May 13 this year. Amendments can be made to articles at the Deliberative Session, but none were proposed on Tuesday.

The town’s proposed $12.4 million gross operating budget was placed on ballot after voters had no questions or comments for Select Board or Budget Committee members.

Select Board Chair Joe Byk said the budget is up less than 1 percent.

“That’s primarily due to the strength of the economy,” Byk said, noting that vehicle registration revenue was up significantly while welfare expenses in the Human Services Department are down. Byk said the town is budgeting for a savings of 2 cents per kilowatt on electricity and 10 cents a gallon on diesel fuel. He also noted that sewer rates are being kept flat and that revenue generated by the town’s ambulance service means the town needs to appropriate only $39,488 in taxes to support the ambulance.

Byk said the capital improvements portion of the budget is up about 21 percent, which is still less than had been requested by the Capital Improvements Committee.

“We made a compromise,” Byk said. “The last few years have been flat and now we have deferred maintenance. You either pay now or pay later.”

Voters also placed on the ballot a warrant article to create a Fire Department Fleet Management Capital Reserve Fund, starting with $100,000 this year. Select Board member Liz Thomas said the intent is to build a fund so vehicles can be replaced in an orderly manner and without restrictions that limit what can be purchased.

“We can’t foresee today exactly what kind of vehicle we’ll need in 10 or 15 years,” Thomas said.

A request for $15,000 for the Geographic Information System Capital Reserve Fund also went on the ballot without questions. Select Board member Barbara Miller said the town’s GIS system hasn’t been upgraded since 2005 and is heavily used by town boards as well as residents. The fund now contains about $30,000, Miller said, and voters will be asked for $15,000 again in 2015 and 2016, with the goal of doing a $75,000 upgrade in 2017.

Other articles that were placed on the ballot include $17,500 for the capital reserve fund to upgrade the town’s financial management software and hardware, which Byk said is in danger of becoming outdated; $55,000 for capital reserve funds used to purchase equipment for the Recreation and Public Works departments; a $6,000 transfer into the Cemetery Expendable Trust Fund, with the money coming from sale of burial lot deeds.

Residents finally came to the microphone for the last article on the ballot, the petition request asking voters to urge the N.H. Legislature to call on Congress to propose a constitutional amendment that “guarantees the right of our elected representative and of the American people to safeguard fair elections through authority to regulate political spending.”

Carol Wyndham said the petition article had been passed in most of the New Hampshire towns where it appeared on Town Meeting warrants in March. She said many local people refer to it as the “Granny D” article, in memory of the late Dublin resident Doris “Granny D” Haddock, who became famous for her campaign for election finance reform.

“We are working on her behalf to get the big money out of politics and make elections fair,” Wyndham said.

“We all need to be concerned about this,” said Kath Allen. “We lose our government if we don’t back this article.”

“Outside groups have spent five times as much as those in state,” said John Friede. “Granny D would be proud that we’re talking about this.”

Iselin, the Harrisville resident who was given permission to speak, asked if anyone had actually read the proposed constitutional amendment they were being asked to support.

“This amendment would abolish all rights for any organization,” he said. “You could be a civil rights group, or a newspaper. The government could just shut you down. That doesn’t sound like America to me.”

Jennifer Bonsu-Anane said the language of a final amendment would be worked out in detail by Congress before it eventually was voted on.

“The big idea is that we want to safeguard our elections by getting big money out of politics,” she said.

The petition article will appear, unchanged, on the May 13 ballot.

Dave Anderson can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 233 or danderson@ledgertranscript.com. He’s on Twitter at @DaveAndersonMLT.

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