With the Vote for the Town Warrant Articles just a few weeks away Rational Taxpayers of Hampton shall begin a series of letters on its thoughts on particular issues, which are distressing to us, as well as the reasoning behind our recommendations that will be included in the “Yellow Sheet” to be published shortly and distributed to the Voters. For the complete list of Town Warrant Articles, click here.
Articles 14-16 deal with wage increases for the Police and Teamsters unions. Rational Taxpayers understands the need to have wage increases for its employees, however, the increases proposed in these articles go too far. First, the negotiating team representing taxpayers was far from objective in that it was made up of two employees, the Assistant Town Manager and Town Attorney, along with Selectman Bean who has publicly supported higher wages for employees, prior to ratification of an agreement by the Selectmen. The increases in these proposed contracts average more than twice the increases in the last agreements passed in 2014. When considering the fact that social security benefits did not increase this past year while Medicare increased by 35%, as well as with the CPI less than 1%, it is hard to rally behind this article. Adding to our concerns was the attempt to obfuscate the true cost to the taxpayers. Initially, the total amounts in these three warrant articles were roughly ½ of the actual cost, until the Budget Committee figured out that the totals only reflected the year to year increases versus the entire cumulative increase. It took a lot of effort to change the language and calculations of the cost amounts in relation to past practice, which certainly raised eyebrows with us since we viewed it as an effort to confuse the taxpayers and mitigate the public perception of the costs. Shame on the Assistant Town Manager and Town Counsel for trying to pull a fast one.
Article 20, Rational Taxpayers is opposed to the additional funding of $147,000 for the High Street Culvert. The voters originally approved this project in 2014. The 2014 warrant article indicated that the cost would be $235,000 contingent on being offset by $147,500 of State, Federal or private funding. The tax impact to the voters was stated to be the net amount of $87,500. Subsequently there was no outside funding, but the taxpayers ended up footing the bill for the entire $235,000, which is still on the books of the Town. Now comes along Article 20 asking for the $147,500 to cover the lack of outside funding when in fact the money effectively increases the project funding to $382,500, far more than the expected tax impact of $87,500, and with no assurance of the final cost. There are far more worthy projects in the community that this type of allocation of funds should be deployed for. We think the Town did a horrible job explaining this article and, in effect, tried to mislead the voters in the way it was presented. With the recent sewer pipe failure this is not how our resources should be deployed on something frivolous and unnecessary.
Article 24 requests that we spend $225,000 for appraisals of utilities including as much as $150,000 of the total for the Seabrook Nuclear plant. This is ridiculous considering that the Selectmen signed a contract agreeing to a Payment in lieu of Taxes freezing payments to the Town until 2021. The State DRA has an appraised valuation of the plant, which is used for calculating the State tax on utilities, so spending this kind of money on Seabrook Station is a shear waste of taxpayer dollars. When we get closer to 2021 that would be the time to do the appraisal so Hampton Taxpayers can get a fair shake.
We invite you to post your own views in the comment section at the bottom of each Warrant Article, and help us learn more before we finalize our recommendations.