As we get closer to the March election there are several warrant articles that Rational Taxpayers of Hampton are vehemently opposed to. After factoring in the interest expense associated with proposed bonds, the overall request is to authorize $50 million of additional spending for 2017. This amount of new spending is incomprehensible to us given that this is essentially equal to Hampton’s total property taxes collected last year. To be clear, property taxes will not double in 2017, but Hampton’s long term debt will more than double.
A proposal to bond $4.2 million, ($7 million with interest), to relocate two sewer pipes along Route 101 that now run under the marsh. This is being driven by a suspiciously timed Administrative Order from the NH Department of Environmental Services to solve a problem for which no supporting evidence exists. Last year the ductile iron pipe was penetrated by a rock that the pipe was resting on. DPW expeditiously repaired the pipe and since then there has been a Chicken Little like reaction suggesting a systemic problem rather than an isolated incident. There has been no evidence to support a systemic problem, but what followed was a proposal by the DPW Director for an extremely expensive project, which we believe was heavily influenced by beach business interests. The DES Administrative Order requires the Town to move the pipes at a cost of over $7 million; it is interesting to note that the NH State Parks is arguably the largest single user of this sewer system, and since the State of NH is not legally required to pay property taxes, the State will not be impacted financially. Easy to not take any chances when someone else is paying for it. The Selectmen voted 4-1 to approve the bond with Mr. Griffin opposing, however, in an ambiguous action the Selectmen voted in a non-public session to challenge the DES Administrative Order. In that regard, we salute them for this wise decision. It is important for the voters to know that the Selectmen’s appeal states that “the pipe appeared to have a lack of corrosion, the internal lining of the ductile iron pipe is intact, the plastic layer identified in the original specs was intact and appeared to be in reasonable condition” and it goes on to state that “there is no reason at this time to presume that the failure was more than a one-time proposition.” Given these facts why are the Selectmen still advocating for spending $7 million? ? We recommend voting NO on this article and saving the money for more constructive purposes.
Town of Hampton Employee Union Contracts
We are infuriated that the taxpayer was represented at the bargaining table by Assistant Town Manager Jamie Sullivan, a retired Hampton Police Chief collecting a $116,000 a year taxpayer funded pension, Town Counsel Gearreald and Selectman Bean, a former town employee, all without the participation of outside labor counsel. Essentially, employees are negotiating with other employees on wages and benefits, tilting the table against the taxpayer. Not all that surprising given that Selectman Chairman Bridle is a retired Firefighter collecting a $79,000 a year taxpayer funded pension. Last year’s negotiations reflected the same unbalanced approach and results. Warrant articles 15-18 cover about 100 town employees at a total aggregate cost increase of just under $2 million. If approved, these contracts will increase the average annual cost per employee by almost three times the increase of the contracts negotiated with the assistance of outside labor counsel in 2014. We believe that the across the board annual increases of 3%, which are compounded by step increases, as well as some employees receiving 8% increases in the first year, are way too rich. The economic environment is still fragile and the CPI has increased by an average of less than 1% for the past three years. Social Security recipients have received a total increase of only 2% when combining the last three years and 30 percent of Hampton residents are seniors and retirees. All of this is a serious disconnect.
No Firefighters Local 2664 CBA, a three year contract offers a 3% across the board increase each year, plus step increases. The total added cost is $762,451 or an average of $7,942 per employee per year.
No Fire Department Supervisors Local 3017 CBA, provides a three year contract with 3% across the board increase each year at a total added cost of $330,758 or an average $8,480 per employee per year.
No Teamsters union Local 633, a three year contract with across the board annual increases of 3%, 2% and 2%, plus step increases. In addition, six of the union’s twenty-four members will receive an 8% increase in the first year. A one-year step of 3% is also added to the pay plan. The total added cost is $323,732 or an average of $4,496 per employee per year.
No SEA Local 1984, a three year contract with 3% across the board increases each year, plus step increases, at a total cost of $534,042 or an average of $5,562 per employee per year.
Winnacunnet High School Teachers Contract
Winnacunnet Article 2:
No. This is a two-year contract with 1.75% across the board wage annual increases a year on top of 3.75% annual step increases or 5.5% a year. The step increases cover the first 13 years of a teacher’s employment. The Hampton School District contract, approved by voters last year, which also has 3.75% step increases, contained across the board annual increases of only ½ of 1%. If approved, by 2018 the majority of Winnacunnet High School teachers will be making almost $4,000 more than their peers in the Hampton School District.
We firmly believe that these contracts are way too generous. We understand the need to provide our valued Town and School employees increases, but not at this level. We need to remind those negotiating that the latest social security increase was .3%, but was eaten up by increases in Medicare insurance coverage, resulting in a reduction of social security checks.