Friday, March 28, 2008

Cold math of tax leniency chills a tiny N.H. town

The article below points out the need for financial transparency in all levels of our government, the need for term limits in all levels of the government, as well as the need for citizens to become more involved in pushing for financial transparency of our elected officials and lastly addressing the issue of nepotism in our government.

The following article appeared in the Boston Globe.

By Jenna Russell
Globe Staff / March 28, 2008
WINDSOR, N.H. - This triangle-shaped town, wedged into the woods well west of Concord, has no store, no post office, no police force of its own. It counts 250 residents, but fewer live here year round. On the dead-end road that runs through the heart of rural Windsor, from White Pond to Black Pond, passing drivers wave in greeting and look twice at any stranger.

Lately, though, some neighbors have stopped waving - and speaking - to each other. Windsor has been split by the recent revelation that for years, dozens of residents, including friends and relatives of the longtime tax collector, did not pay property taxes and faced no penalties.

To the tiny group of taxpayers who combed through stacks of handwritten ledgers to find the discrepancies, the findings mean the town must change the way it does business. But many more in Windsor do not agree. They are little concerned about the missing payments, and expect an ongoing review of town records to find bookkeeping errors, not corruption. Those residents are troubled by what they say is an unnecessarily personal attack against Beverly Hines, the former tax collector who resigned over the controversy, whose family tree goes back in town for generations.

Underlying the tax controversy is a philosophical divide, between a small group of people who think the town must follow the letter of the law, and the majority, who feel their traditional, small-town way of life, embodied by the informal ap proach to tax collection, is under threat.

"People have always been behind on their taxes in Windsor, and the selectmen have always worked with them to let them get caught up when they can," said Ron Houghton, a Windsor native. "People say they want to move here because they love it, but then they want to change it. They don't like it because it's not big-town, by-the-book, but that's Windsor - we could do things unorthodox and make it work."

The uproar comes amid a statewide furor over increasing property taxes, driven partly by an influx of real estate buyers drawn to remote lakefront settings like those in Windsor. The town's population, still tiny, more than tripled between 1980 and 2005, from 72 to 239.

But the members of the Windsor Coalition of Taxpayers, the small group of retirees who have pushed the town's practices into public view, are not new faces here. One couple has lived in town since 1974; another has resided year-round for more than a decade. An electrician and a retired police officer, nurse, and bookkeeper, all in their 60s, they say they have been belittled and threatened by fellow townspeople since launching their campaign.


Among those with unpaid taxes was the tax collector's son, Pat Hines, who has served as town moderator for decades. In an interview, he dismissed the idea he was getting special treatment and said his mother had empathy for people struggling, whether they were close to her or not.


To view the whole story go to the Boston Globe website .

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