Friday, May 16, 2008

Sign of the Times

In the article below the editors conclude that failure of several warrant articles was the result of a poor economy. But they fail to take into consideration a second factor: the passage of SB-2 in May 2007. Some people are more willing to vote against a tax increase if their teachers, superintendents, firemen, police officers, etc. are not looking to see who is supporting their tax increases. We saw it here in Croydon and it happens in other towns across New Hampshire. We also saw it in caucuses across this country during the primaries the past 5 months.

The editors point out that it only saves $18 on $100,000 house. Most houses in Newport are well over $100,000 and Newport has one of the highest tax rates in the state. The authors fail to acknowledge that people are already spending thousands to to tens of thousands of dollars annually in property taxes. Its inappropriate to minimize the defeat by saying it is only 18 cents more per 1,000. That trick is commonly used to pass tax increases by tax eaters.

Voters were willing to spend money where they felt it was necessary (ex. the ambulance). If the economy was the true culprit, I doubt any tax increases would have passed.

The more plausible explanation is that people simply feel the schools and the town are getting enough money and it is time for them to start spending it wisely.


The following Our View appears in the Eagle Times.

Sign of the times
As general rule, if a town or a school district anticipates the tax rate will decrease under their proposed budgets and other spending articles, it is safe to assume voters will say yes.

But that is in so-called normal times and these are not normal times. With gasoline approaching $4 a gallon and home heating oil about the same, cash-strapped residents are wondering if they will have enough money to stay warm and get to work. This is no longer about cutting out the weekly movie.

We offer that as an explanation as to what happened in Newport during town meeting Tuesday. The town manager and board of selectmen had proposed a budget and other warrant articles that would have reduced the town tax rate an estimated six cents per $1,000 if they passed. As little as a year ago, such a proposal had a pretty good chance of gaining voter approval. But this year is different and by rejecting the budget and all but three articles, residents could see their town tax rate fall by 18 cents. Yes, that is only $18 on a $100,000 home but the escalating cost of energy means that money could buy maybe a half a tank of gas.

No one can say today what energy costs will be next March, but we would bet that if they are just as high, if not higher, many town and school districts will be experiencing what Newport experienced Tuesday.

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