Peterborough’s deliberative session voters amend budget up by $76k

  • Andy Dunbar votes in favor of an amendment he proposed to the budget at Peterborough's Deliberative Session on Tuesday night. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • Judy Ferstenberg speaks about residents struggling to pay taxes at Peterborough's Deliberative Session on Tuesday night. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • Budget Committee member Rich Clark, center, explains he did not support the proposed budget because he feels the town is accruing too much debt.  Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • Voters voted to approve additional spending, offset by TIF funds, in the budget at Peterborough's Deliberative Session on Tuesday night. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 4/3/2019 4:01:56 PM

The Peterborough budget passed through the town’s deliberative session at a total of $16.2 million, after being amended.

The proposed budget is up 2 percent over the current budget. The town anticipates about $140,000 more to be raised from taxation, compared to the previous year, Town Administrator Rodney Bartlett said.

In 2018, the town’s portion of the tax rate was set at $10.61 per $1,000 of assessed property value. In 2019, if the budget and all warrant articles at both the ballot vote and open session pass, the town estimates the tax rate will be $10.73. That represents about a 1 percent increase on the town’s portion of the tax bill, Bartlett said. That estimate does not take into account the impact of a $4 million bond to re-build the highway garage, which would not impact the tax rate until 2021 when the first bond payment would be due.

“It is a responsible budget that we are proud to present to the taxpayers,” Selectwoman Barbara Miller said. 

Voters turned down one amendment to the budget, offered by Andy Dunbar, to reduce the community development budget by $10,500.

Specifically, Dunbar said, he was targeting funds for contracting outside services and public outreach. The tasks currently being outsourced should be handled by town staff, he said. 

“I don’t see the need to hire an outside person,” Dunbar said. “I don’t think we need to spend money outside when we have qualified people inside.”

Moderator Phil Runyon called the show of hands too close to call, and on a hand count, the proposed amendment failed 49-32.

However, the next amendment, offered by the Select Board, did pass, in a show of hands. The board proposed increasing the budget by $76,500, to do engineering work on Robbe Farm Road and Overseers Road. The town intends to use funds already collected in the South Peterborough Tax Increment Financing District to pay for the work, not taxation. Voters easily approved the proposed amendment.

An article, submitted by petition, which would have the town attempt to negotiate the ConVal School District’s articles of agreement to be more favorable to Peterborough, stirred discussion among residents who said the current tax burden is becoming untenable.

In 2018, Peterborough’s tax rate was $30.09 per $1,000 of value. Of that, the local school tax is $16.19, and the state school tax is $2.12, a total of 61 percent of the tax rate.

Resident Johnathan Ericson, reading a statement written by petitioner Ed Juengst, said it’s clear some towns are carrying a “disproportionate” amount of the funding burden, and it is the intent of the article for Peterborough to “take the lead” in sitting down with a mediator to review the district’s articles of agreement.

Resident Judy Ferstenberg said there is a “crisis” because people are no longer able to afford their homes in Peterborough. She said there is no use in having an excellent school system if no one can afford to move into its district. 

Resident Bill Chatfield said the petition lacked funding for a mediator and didn’t specify a time frame for the negotiation to happen.

“I think the petition lacks specifics,” Chatfield said.

Selectwoman Karen Hatcher said there is work being done locally and at the state level to address inadequate education aid from the state, which would help alleviate the tax burden. She also said even if the article passed, it may not be possible to get the other towns in the school district to the negotiating table.

If the towns did come to an agreement on any changes on the district’s articles of agreement, it would have to be approved by a two-thirds majority of voters in the entire district – not just Peterborough – to be enacted.

A separate petition article, which would have Peterborough adopt a resolution to call on the U.S. government to renounce the option to strike first with nuclear weapons, and pursue an agreement with other nuclear-armed states to eliminate their nuclear arsenals.

There was little discussion on the remainder of the articles going to the ballot.

The town requests to open a new capital reserve account for the replacement of the town’s six police vehicles and put in about $18,500, half of the cost for a new police vehicle. Police Chief Scott Guinard said he’d like to switch to a purchase system instead of lease-purchase, which would save the town about $1,200 in interest fees for each vehicle but will require up-front purchasing costs. 

The fire department is requesting two capital purchases this year. Similar to the police department, the fire department is asking to set up a new capital reserve for vehicles and equipment and to put $40,000. Those funds will be used this year to replace the department’s portable radios if approved. The current ones are no longer supported by the manufacturer and are becoming “nearly impossible” to repair, Miller told the crowd.

The fire department is also requesting $75,000 to purchase a used bucket truck to maintain the fire alarm wires. The current truck owned by the department is not tall enough to reach all of the wires. The truck is also used by other departments, including buildings and grounds and recreation.

Ballot voting on town officials, zoning amendments, and warrant articles 3 through 14 is scheduled to be held on Tuesday, May 14 at the Peterborough Community Center, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Articles 15 through 19 are to be discussed, amended and voted on only during the town’s open session on May 15.

The articles discussed during the open session include proposals for an $8.26 million bond to purchase a new water supply and build infrastructure, a $4 million bond for a public works garage, $400,000 for the road capital reserve, and a request to enter into a lease-purchase agreement for a new ambulance for $325,000.

The open session of Town Meeting, where amendments and votes will be taken on the rest of the warrant, is scheduled to be held Wednesday, May 15 at 7 p.m. at the Town House.

 

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @ AshleySaariMLT.


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