In Hampton, the Town plays to the apathy of voters by using the Unassigned Fund Balance. This fund is derived from overly stated Operating Budgets, budgeted line items that were not acted upon, as well as underspent and lapsed warrant articles, hence a surplus of monies is created and channeled into the “Unassigned Fund balance (UFB)”. Now comes the Town Warrant Articles and the utilization of the Unassigned Fund balance! There is a proliferation this year of articles (10) all using the unassigned fund balance for funding. Since they all say to the voter, no tax impact, these articles historically pass!
In 2019 there was almost $600,000 used for six UFB funded Warrant Articles, while the number of articles and amount of money more than doubled in 2020. Between 2015 and 2017 the Selectmen used $2.1 million to reduce taxes, while in 2018 and 2019, for the first time in many years, they did not use any of the UFB to reduce taxes.
The rational Taxpayers of Hampton are of the opinion that Surpluses, in excess of the recommended amount by the State Department of Revenue (for unforeseen costs or emergencies), should go back to the voters on an annual basis for tax reduction. Our feeling is that only where a very critical need has been identified and made transparent to the public should the money be diverted too funding a warrant article. New pickup trucks for the Fire Prevention Officer and Building Inspector hardly qualify as emergencies.
All the warrant article referencing the Unassigned Fund balances this year should be considered very carefully as it is your money that is funding the article where the option of returning it to you as a tax reduction has been decided on by the Town and BOS! The Identified articles are 19, 22, 24, 31, 32, 33, 34, 36, 37, 38 and 39 that total $1,317,127. Again this money could have been used to mitigate taxes rather than fund warrant articles that should have been stand-alone articles, justified appropriately, and voted on by the public. Instead the “end around” play was called, and the no tax impact was signaled.
This all comes down to the lack of leadership. If the BOS are in lockstep with the unions and special interests and really don’t dig deep on issues or push back with tough questions (and they don’t) and simply patronize the Department heads (which goes on all the time) and go with what the Town Manger suggests and the Town Lawyer concocts then how is the public being served? Thus, we really think it is time for real change. We need more people to get interested in local government, we need a strategic plan to deal with infrastructure in an open and informative manner and we need to solve problems. This year we have an opportunity to bring new leadership to the board like Brian Warburton and Mike Plouffe and it is time to retire the old “Status Quo” guard who have tried to serve the public and replace them with fresh thinking people with vision and scope and who think and can offer alternatives to problem that linger and with whom we can rally around. Secondly, we have a new Town Manager Jamie Sullivan taking charge in a few months and we wish him the best and expect that he will lead us in a more communicative and open direction.
We ask the voters of Hampton to give it a try!