On 5/21/2018 Norm Silberdick and Jerry Znoj of the Rational Taxpayers of Hampton met with the BOS to voice concerns over the revenue that has been “pouring” into the cable TV fund since 2016. A change to the proposed 2016 warrant article with respect to The Comcast cable fee distribution was moved by the Selectmen and voted on in the affirmative by the registered voters present at the 2016 town deliberation session (approx.100 people). The move took 100% of the fee (4%) that is now on the cable TV bill we all receive and apply 100% of it to channel 22, the Town’s public access channel.. Before that motion was approved the 4% fee was split 75% to town revenue (to offset taxes) and 25% to Channel 22 to cover operating costs.
RTOH indicated that as a group it agrees that the fund was set up incorrectly from the start with the aforementioned percentages and that none of the fee should be looked upon as town revenue (essentially a tax). The pendulum has now swung the other way so that now approximately $90,000 a quarter or $360,000 a year is flowing into the Cable TV fund and considered an absolute excess in terms of their operational needs (Fund balance is $421,735 through April 2018).
RTOH also complained that a recent lengthy discussion was held on channel 22 where a major upgrade was discussed for channel 22 but never a cost in dollars mentioned! RTOH complained about the lack of transparency on that discussion as to the costs. RTOH, through investigation, latter found out the proposed cost, which was approved by the Selectmen that night, was $260,000! As one can see the spending has begun. RTOH does not disagree with the station upgrade but has a major concern of the future spending of this fund. RTOH commented that any time a fund of this nature accumulates large sums of money there is a natural tendency to spend it without a lot of justification! That night the Selectman also approved monies for SAU90 and their educational channel, from the cable TV fund, but again details were not released or available on the SAU 90 request. Once again transparency was missing.
RTOH proposed that Comcast be directed to reduce the fee to its subscribers to 2% all of which would flow to the cable TV fund. It also recommended that until Comcast lowers the existing fee as proposed that the Town Fiancé Director be instructed to funnel half the existing percentage (2%) to the unassigned fund balance until the fee reduction takes place. RTOH also made two recommendations on how this could be handled with warrant articles so the public would be absolutely plugged into the happenings.
Follow along with the attached video for comments made by the BOS. The BOS essentially agreed with the RTOH observations but indicated it had to wait till the operational costs for the two stations (22 and 13) are fully understood.
RTOH feels that the bottom line is “the timeliness of the needed resolution” The concern being it will “drag on” and be forgotten and lost with all the other town happenings and Board turnover. We will see.