Water main engineering money removed from proposed Jaffrey water budget

  • Jaffrey Budget Committee chair Norman Langevin presents the proposed operating budget and warrant articles during Saturday’s public hearing.  Staff photo by Nicholas Handy

  • State rep. Dick Ames discusses a Jaffrey-Rindge School District apportionment change warrant article during Saturday’s Jaffrey budget hearing.  Staff photo by Nicholas Handy

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Monday, February 12, 2018 5:38PM

Jaffrey’s budget committee has removed $75,000 from the proposed water operating budget, which would have been used to design the next phase of the town’s water main replacement project. 

The funds were removed from the budget following Saturday’s public hearing on the town budgets and warrant articles. While the engineering funds only represented $75,000 in this year’s budget, the committee acknowledged that it was setting the town up for another, much larger, ask to taxpayers in next year’s budget cycle. 

Committee member Jack Belletete said he didn’t want to have the town spend money to engineer an expensive project given the uncertainty of a school district warrant article, which if passed would alter the district’s apportionment formula and cause Jaffrey’s tax rate to rise an estimated $2.20 over the next six years. 

“We have a looming issue with the school district coming up,” said Belletete. “I think we need to get past that before indebting the town. I’m in favor of capital outlay, but there could be a huge bump in the road right here.”

Engineering was scheduled for a 2,972-foot stretch of water main on Squantum Road circa 1899, an 8,004-foot stretch on Squantum Road circa 1920, an undersized, 860-foot stretch on School Street circa 1899, and a 970-foot stretch on Contoocook Avenue circa 1960, which has experienced a number of breaks. 

Voters at the 2016 Town Meeting approved a $2.8 million warrant article to fund phase one of the project. 

Pulling the money from the water budget doesn’t mean that the engineering can’t happen, as it was said at the meeting that the selectmen have the authority to pay for it using the water surplus fund.

Town Manager Jon Frederick said doing the engineering could be beneficial for the town, as grants and other funding sources are often available for “shovel-ready” projects. 

All proposed budgets – $6.5 million for operating, $965,969 for water, and $1.9 million for sewer – and warrant articles (including all petitions) were unanimously recommended by the committee after the hearing. 

Much of the discussion at Saturday’s public hearing had nothing to do with any article on the town warrant. 

Following the budget and warrant article presentation, many in attendance spoke about an article that will appear on the school district ballot relative to an apportionment change. 

“We are paying with state aid and they don’t want to count it,” said John McCarthy, a Jaffrey resident and member of the Jaffrey-Rindge school board. “We are a lower income town.”

Many who spoke about the article on the ballot – which would remove property valuation from the apportionment formula, which is currently a 50/50 split of property value and average student count – said Jaffrey residents need to get out and vote this year, as in past years Rindge voters have outnumbered Jaffrey by about 2:1 during local elections. 

“If we do nothing, we lose,” said resident Don MacIsaac, who said that the article would have a “draconian impact” on Jaffrey’s tax rate if passed. “Your vote counts. You have to get out the vote.”

Library Director Julie Perrin pointed out that a number of Jaffrey town services – including police, fire, and the library – support Rindge students throughout the day, as the middle and high school are located in town. 

Dick Ames, a Jaffrey resident and state rep., discussed the concept of fairness, saying he feels that it should be based on each town’s tax rate, rather than on student count, which is one measure frequently discussed during apportionment conversations.