New Ipswich budget committee no-shows deliberative session

  • The New Ipswich select board discussed the town budget Tuesday night. Staff photo by Ashley Saari

  • The town's Budget Committee table was empty during the New Ipswich Deliberative Session on Tuesday night. (Ashley Saari / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • The town's Budget Committee table was empty during the New Ipswich Deliberative Session on Tuesday night. (Ashley Saari / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • The Budget Committee’s empty table at the Deliberative Session Tuesday. Staff photo by Ashley Saari

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Thursday, February 08, 2018 7:39AM
Article 3: Budget of $2.36 million or default of $2.30Article 4: Accept $160,000 Highway Block GrantArticle 5: Raise $350,000 for road reconstructionArticle 6: Raise $250,000 for road reconstructionArticle 7: $84,370 for ambulance contractArticle 8: $194,

Since its inception in 2014, the Budget Committee has traditionally presented the town’s budget during New Ipswich’s Deliberative Session. This year, however, the table sat empty, and none of the committee’s members were even in attendance.

During the town’s public hearing of the budget last month, the Budget Committee capitu lated to public demand to put forth the version of the budget compiled by the Select Board, rather than it’s own, which included cuts to the police budget, to effectively eliminate an unfilled officer position. 

Brian Somero, who chaired the Budget Committee through the creation process, but stepped down from the chair position on Jan. 20 after the public hearing, said that he felt the process had been taken out of the Committee’s hands.

“For myself, that’s the Selectmen’s budget,” said Somero. “It’s not even our budget, so I wasn’t going to go there and defend it.”

Somero said he has decided not to re-run for the Budget Committee, saying he was discouraged by this year’s process.

“It’s discouraging, because on the Budget Committee, you might save a few pennies for the town, which isn’t worth it for me, and if you try to do something where the big money is, you’ll get beat down, so it’s kind of useless to put in that kind of time.”

Select Board Chair David Lage said he was disappointed that none of the Committee members had shown up.

“They’re not doing what the RSA has tasked them to do, which is to look at the overall budget and present it to the public,” said Lage.

As to the budget being the Select Board’s budget, Lage said the Committee had taken ownership of it by voting to put the number forward at the public hearing. 

“They voted on it,” he said. 

While Lage offered to answer any questions the public might have on the budget, the public didn’t offer any input or ask any questions. There was only perfunctory discussion on New Ipswich’s largest monetary warrant article, asking for $2.35 million for the town’s operating budget. Residents offered no objection an amendment made by Selectman Jay Hopkins to add $10,000 to the Highway Department budget for the purpose of implementing checks and repairs or replacements of the town’s dry hydrant system, nor to individual line item adjustments that didn’t have an effect on the budget’s final line, and asked no questions.

The town’s default budget is set at $2.30, which is last year’s budget, adjusted for previous actions taken at last year’s town meeting or by law, which may be adopted if the town fails the proposed budget at voting in March. The town also has the option to hold a special meeting to deal with the sole issue of the budget, should the proposed number fail. 

New Ipswich resident Marc Fortier brought up the Budget Committee’s absence from the forum during the discussion of another article – one by petition brought by Jim Hicks to disband the committee. 

Fortier pointed to the sparseness of detail included in Budget Committee minutes when it came to detailing how they arrived at their budget number, along with the committee’s absence on Tuesday as “a pretty good argument” in favor of disbanding.

If the town does not vote to disband the committee, all four potential Budget Committee seats are up for grabs this year. Fortier has put his name on the ballot for one of two open three-year terms on the budget committee, along with incumbent Alan Doyle. Hicks has also put his name in for the committee, running a contested race for the committee’s two-year term against incumbent Dan Heath. Patricia Mittleider is running uncontested for the 1-year term. 

The rest of the meeting moved briskly, with only minimal comments from the crowd. Among appropriations, this year are $600,000 in road work, split between two articles, one requesting $350,000 and the other requesting $250,000.

Lage said the town has been accepting both articles for the last stretch of years, and the town has continually been able to make progress rebuilding it’s main roads, and hopes in the coming years to start to address some of the deteriorating side roads as well. 

The town will also be looking to replace a fire truck this year, requesting to use $415,000 for the purchase of a pumper with the total amount taken from the fire department’s capital reserve. 

Fire Chief Meredith Lund spoke on the article, informing the crowd that the department had applied for a grant last year to replace the truck, but were unsuccessful.

“We now have a truck as part of our initial response that is considered an antique fire truck, and are protecting your homes and property with an antique fire truck,” said Lund of the vehicle the pumper will replace. 

The town is also requesting $685,000 for the purpose of eventually replacing the Taylor Road bridge, which is out of use and has caused the road to be closed. Of that, the town expects to be reimbursed for 80 percent of the work through the state’s bridge program, leaving New Ipswich to raise the remaining $137,000 from taxation.

Lage clarified that the town does not expect to be able to access those state funds or repair the bridge until 2025 at the earliest, but said that the town needed to have funds in place in anticipation of getting on the state bridge repair schedule. 

The second session of the Town Meeting to elect officers and to vote on all warrant articles will be held on March 13 at the Mascenic Regional High School from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.