Thursday, July 19, 2012

In Winchester, Budget relief

WINCHESTER — The purse strings have been officially loosened, and the town of Winchester can now spend the money its voters approved.

A letter from the Department of Revenue Administration read aloud at Wednesday’s selectmen’s meeting said the state agency would comply with a court order to allow the town to spend the nearly $3.9 million of its spending plan. This includes every warrant article voters approved earlier this year.

The department had disallowed $418,956 of the town’s plan this year because its spending limit was exceeded when appropriations for the water and sewer departments were added in after a budget deadline.

The response comes after a long wait. The court’s decision was announced at the June 27 selectmen’s meeting, the day after Town Administrator Joan C. Morel sent a letter to the department notifying it of the court’s decision.

Selectmen Chairwoman Roberta Fraser said after the June meeting that agency officials had assured the town they would comply, but the three-week wait for those assurances appears to have caused some trepidation among board members.

While waiting for the department’s response, selectmen voted on July 11 to curtail town purchases. They also refrained from signing an agreement for services for the ELMM Community Center or paying it the money voters had approved. Any checks the board had written for expenses approved in warrant articles, in anticipation of the state’s response, were locked up in the safe.

Morel said that after Wednesday’s meeting the board has returned to its regular purchasing policies, and the contract with the center has been signed. The board also approved sending out the checks for money appropriated in warrant articles.

The state department’s director of municipal services, Barbara J. Robinson, wrote that the delay was due to the “highly unusual circumstance.”

The town’s budget crisis was the result of a dispute between the town’s selectmen and budget committee over water and sewer department funding.

When selectmen removed the departments’ funding from the town operating budget and introduced the spending as separate warrant articles, the committee recommended not funding them. Then-committee Chairman Brian D. Moser said this had been a form of protest against the selectmen’s move.

Because Winchester is an official-ballot town with a municipal budget committee, the Department of Revenue Administration establishes a limit to the amount its voters can approve: adding 10 percent to the budget committee’s recommendation.

The committee soon changed its recommendation to include $537,802 for water and sewer, but the state department used the panel’s earlier recommendations, and the original zero-dollar amount was binding. With more than half a million dollars in water and sewer funding missing from the equation, the spending limit was lowered dramatically — to $418,956 below what voters approved.

As a result, the department reconciled the difference by cutting funding for all of the town’s warrant articles — except the water and sewer departments, whose funding was allowed because it’s vital to town operations — as well as more than $170,000 from the operating budget.

Some of the warrant articles include $50,000 for the ELMM Community Center, $28,000 for the Evergreen Cemetery Care Fund, $56,000 for the police youth aid officer and $50,000 for the Conant Library maintenance and repair fund.

This caused selectmen to take legal action against the budget committee. Their dispute was resolved with a consent decree in which the board and committee say neither actually intended the original zero-dollar appropriation to be the official recommendation.

Cheshire County Superior Court Judge William J. Groff signed the decree on June 21 and ordered the spending limit be recalculated to just over $4 million.

The budget incident did have some lasting effects. Because of the uncertainty surrounding its funding, the ELMM center had to scale back its summer programs by cutting the entire adventure program and also removing the weekly field trips from its day camp.
Garrett Brnger can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1436, or


Anonymous said...

Well, being Winchester you wouldn't expect the headline,Taxpayer Relief. When rock climbing for a few, trumps paying the rent and puting food on the table for all, you know we have a problem.

Anonymous said...

You know, When you watch the news especially this morning it kind of puts things in perspective.
We are fortunate, our towns complaints kinda seem small now,very small.
Maybe for a few hours or even days we can actually be happy and spend a little effort on commenting on the good things we have going.
We are alive, We have community,Our kids are growing and having fun, and there is always the option of working for a better tomorrow
Get out today and do one act of kindness for a neighbor or friend it will come back to you someday.

no light at the end of the tunnel here said...

History in this town has proven turning a blind eye to our problems only compounds them and they get worse, not better. Yes, it would be nice if we could all walk around with a smile on our faces and think the world is a rosy place; but like you say when you watch and read the news and pay attention to what has been going on for years in this town, making believe everything is coming up roses only fools yourself.
Another year of raising our taxes with unnecessary spending instead of acting in a fiscal manner and CUTTING expenditures, how much longer must people go without or lose their homes so the privileged few can get what they want to embellish their images?

Anonymous said...

Our town representatives are used to breaking the laws and getting away with them. It would be nice if, for ONCE - the State had the courage to finally do something about it.

Over and over again, they get away with it!

To the point that we have stopped reporting or complaining - because the State DOES NOT listen!

Anonymous said...

If you are so miserable, why don't you move? I would not stay in a town that mad me miserable. Is it impossible for you to move? Or maybe misery loves company. Some of you comment about being in this town for years and years. Why I ask???

Anonymous said...

Attention to:

"To the point that we have stopped reporting or complaining - because the State DOES NOT listen"

Dont rely on the state or courts
We can make all the change we need very easily.
Some of the members causing our town the biggest trouble and expenses are up for re election in March.
Inform yourself get out and Vote
They are counting on the fact their friends and people they have helped screw us will be enough to keep them in.

Read what our board members are doing and vote them out.
all the info you need is in black and white and makes the choices of who you vote for or not- very very easy.

Bill said...

Because you dumb@## it's home and why should I leave, I was born here unlike those we have in charge and fools like you.

Anonymous said...

Right. Leave town. When was the last normal real estate sale in Winchester? The only way you get out of this town is to lose your house to the town ot the bank. Half the town would have left by now if they could sell their homes. And expect it to get only worse as the town "leaders" continue to spend us into poverty. Who would want to move to this cesspool of corruption?

Most of the people who vote for ELM spending think the town owns it.

2 PM Sat. 21st said...

Is there a problem with Forest Lake? Beautiful day, two life guards on duty and NO ONE at the town beach.

Anonymous said...

Recreational Exposure to Cyanobacteria (Blue-Green Algae)
What You Should Know

"Recent attention has been directed toward cyanobacteria Cyanobacteria in New Hampshire Waters (Fact Sheet WMB-10) in New Hampshire’s lakes and ponds. The presence of cyanobacteria in recreational waters is a great concern of the DES Beach Program. Blooms of these primitive cyanobacteria have caused adverse health affects, even death, in livestock, domestic animals and humans.

Recreational Exposure
Cyanobacteria blooms are aesthetically displeasing in sight, odor and taste, as well as potentially toxic to domestic animals, livestock, waterfowl and humans. Cyanobacteria are a potential public health danger because they may produce toxins, collectively referred to as “Cyanotoxins,” that can be released into the water when cells die or are consumed by organisms in the food chain. However, the amount of toxin produced varies over time and from lake to lake. A cyanobacteria bloom may produce very little or no toxin in one lake and a later bloom in the same lake could produce a large toxin concentration. Unfortunately, no known method exists for predicting the toxin content of a cyanobacteria bloom. These cyanotoxins target the liver, kidney, the central nervous system, and skin irritants. All cyanotoxins can cause both acute and chronic illnesses. Acute effects, such as skin and mucous membrane irritations, can occur after short term exposure with water containing these toxins. Chronic effects, such as liver, kidney, and central nervous system damage, can occur over a long period of time from water ingestion containing toxins".

The above information is taken from the NH DES website. This is in reply to the question about Forest Lake. There has been a cyanobacteria bloom that is being monitored and at this time there is an "Advisory" posted at the Beach and Boat Landing, but it is a "personal choice" to be in the water.

Anonymous said...

I am glad the life guards are on duty, keep paying them. Money for nothing is just what this town does.

Just Ask'n said...

Didnt read it anywhere, did we pay for the life guards swim suites again this year?