NO TAX INCREASE REPORTS BUDGET COMMITTEE!

At its hearing at the Bow Memorial School on February 12 Budget Committee Chair John Heise announced that the combined school and town budgets result in no tax increase even after paying Public Service Company $5.7 Million.

Unlike last year when the school and budget committee numbers were $700,000 apart it was all smiles this year. The school budget for 2018-19 is $60,000 less than last year at $28,206,625. Due to revenues and increased state aid the school tax rate per thousand dollars of valuation went from $17.19 down to $16.65 for a $ .54 decrease.

That decrease was offset exactly by the $ .54 increase in the town tax rate. The town budget went from $9,987,107 for 2017-18 to $11,662,735 for 2018-19.

The major increase was $1,800,000 added in under the “Legal Services” line item to be used towards paying interest owed on the PSNH back taxes. The town tax rate went from $7.58 to $8.12.
As for warrant articles the only petitioned article is the one 532 voters signed to do the life safety compliance and electrical work in the Community Building.

It will be considered along with the town budget on Wednesday March 14 at 6:30 P.M. at the high school auditorium. There are no controversies in the school budget which will be voted on Friday March 16 at 7 P.M. at the high school gymnasium.

Updated 2-14-2018 at 2:13 PM

Town Pays $5,722,373 to PSNH

At the budget hearing on the town and school district budgets for the coming fiscal year Harry Judd, Selectboard Chair, announced that on February 12 the town delivered a check to PSNH for $5,722,373.

Judd said that amount covered the back taxes owed Public Service Company for 2012 and 2013, however, the interest accruing at 6% has not been paid. “By paying this money we stop interest from running” said Judd.

Estimates of about $2,000,000 in interest still owed were not confirmed nor how the town will come up with the funds to pay it.

Sources told this paper the town may choose to litigate the years 2014-2017, but would use a new expert on utility valuation. On several occasions in Superior Court Judge Richard McNamara’s opinion he found the town’s expert to lack credibility. The Supreme Court likewise hung its hat on the fact that it does not reconsider trial judge’s findings on credibility when it affirmed McNamara’s opinion.

When asked how many millions were involved in the years 2014-2017 Selectman Judd declined to even give a range from low to high.

The source of the $5.7 M was as follows:
1. Abatement overlay …………………….$1,400,000
2. Allocated fund balance ………………..$1,000,000
3. Unexpended balance in the town’s
“checkbook” termed the unassigned
fund balance …………………..$3,322,373

As for the future Chairman Judd said “It is unlikely there will be a global solution by town meeting.”

Voters Send a Message

by Chuck Douglas

After learning that the Board of Selectmen were proposing a warrant article to spend $100,000 to level the Community Building, part-time Recreation Department Michele Vecchione, became a woman on a mission.

At her expense, Michele pulled together a Heart of the Community flyer and a citizen petition warrant article to keep the building operational by doing the life safety requirements called for by the Fire Safety Engineer Bob Cummings at a cost of $76,900 (fire alarm, fire retardant wallboard, etc.), as well as another $465 for fixing a threshold and fire retardant paint. Removal of the generator and fuel tank on the fire side come to $2,500.

Also included was $14,480 for necessary upgrades as called for by the Fire Marshall and Yeaton & Associates. Long time Bow Rotary member, John Ruggles of R & T Electric, provided a hard “will do it for that price” analysis with no fluff in it.

Michele took the numbers and the total came to $94,345 to save the building for a lower cost than destroying it in hopes of bonding a new one. The money would come from a municipal building reserve fund with over $300,000 in it so taxes would not be increased. It would bring the building into compliance with the State Fire Marshall’s concerns of several years ago. Her citizen warrant article reads:
“To see if the Town will vote to raise and appropriate the sum of $94,345 for the purpose of Life Safety compliance and electrical upgrades to keep the Recreation Department side of the Bow Community Building open for assembly, operation of the Bow Recreation Department, and community use and to authorize the withdrawal of up to $94,345 from the Municipal Building and Grounds Capital Reserve Fund for the above purposes.”

Then came the sales job for Rotary, The Men’s Club, etc. and the petition soon went viral on social media. Group after group and neighborhood by neighborhood circulated it for voters to sign to have a choice at town meeting.

The 25 needed signatures were obtained the night she spoke to the Men’s Club, but on she went for more signers.

At the petition due date on Tuesday February 6, there were over 532 voters choosing to save the building and the activities in it.

That night as the Selectmen took up what to do with the Community Building the voter’s voices were heard. Selectman Chris Nicolopoulos moved to withdraw the proposed $100,000 warrant article calling for razing the building and prevailed by a 4 to 1 vote. Selectman Colleen Hunter, who wants a new building, voted no.

The board next discussed the recent price for the removal of asbestos by Penial Environmental Services. Their price of $21,200 is the same whether the building is destroyed or not.

Chuck Douglas told the board he expected a floor amendment to add that asbestos number to the $94,345 so that “all health and safety issues could be done once and for all.” Again, Selectman Nicolopoulos made a motion to add that number to the building maintenance line item. The vote in the affirmative was 4 to 1, with Harry Judd voting against it.

The board’s discussion recognized that their desire to have a new building was dramatically changed last month with the loss of power plant tax case in the Supreme Court. The board then went into nonpublic session to discuss a possible multi-million dollar settlement with Eversource.

The board hopes to have a proposal before town meeting on how to pay back the millions at stake.

FRIVOLOUS APPEAL COSTS TOWN $400,000

One year ago this month this newspaper reported Bow’s loss in court of the tax appeal by Public Service Company. The January 2017 paper reported on my review of the cases from the court I served on for over eight years as follows:

“The statistics from utility tax appeals in the New Hampshire Supreme Court for the last 35 years reflect no reversals at all in similar cases.” Bow Times, January 2017, page 1.

Now it is 36 years of no reversals.

In the editorial a year ago I said:

“While the town has appealed, the effort seems futile given that most of the judge’s decision was based on lack of credible evidence from the town’s expert on valuation of utility properties. The Supreme Court does not make new determinations of credibility.”

So what did the court say in its opinion this month?

“Credibility, of course, is for the trial judge to determine as a matter of fact… We find no reason to disturb the court’s assessment” because the Public Service Company’s expert was credible, Bow’s was not.

I pleaded personally with Harry Judd a year ago to settle this loser of a case before it was decided by the Supreme Court. Harry is an energy company lawyer not a litigator. Now we have to settle with a foot on our throat and we have wasted a year of interest at about $400,000 plus the cost of transcripts and attorney fees. The result? An opinion brushing off Bow in a little over four pages and not one single cite to an exhibit or a single page of testimony in the six-day trial.

I hate to say I told you so but a year ago at page two of The Bow Times newspaper I said:

1. Get a new town counsel
2. Get an attorney that specializes in tax cases
3. Settle as soon as possible

Thanks for blowing $400,000 on a frivolous appeal.

Chuck Douglas