It’s Cutting Time in Bow

by Chuck Douglas

The first of two power plant shoes has fallen with a $14,000,000 thud. Superior Court Judge Richard McNamara has held that Bow over assessed the plant and other Eversource properties by 58%, meaning for the tax years 2012-2015 Bow owes about $14,000,000 with interest.

Now that the goose that long laid golden eggs has become a turkey vulture there will have to be large tax increases or spending cuts to fund the check to Eversource.

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

After hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees and expert costs the town should take several steps now:

1. Get a new town counsel
2. Get an attorney that specializes in tax cases
3. Settle as soon as possible
4. For future years have the State value the property
5. Tell the voters how much the tax jump will be per thousand of residential tax dollars to make up for this fiasco
6. Cut the town and school budgets — not increase them!

The alternative is to borrow $14,000,000 at 4% interest for 20 years, which at 4% will cost at least $20,000,000 and will run us $1,000,000 a year to acquire nothing.

Finally, new blood will be needed on the school board and board of selectmen to retire the tax and spend crowd so long in control and who will surely resist the needed budget cuts.

School Board Should Rein In Fake News

by Chuck Douglas

School board member Jennifer Strong-Rain should stop her misrepresentation of the work the Budget Committee is trying to do for reasonable spending. On Monday January 9 she attended the budget committee meeting and showed her colors as a shill for the spenders.

She used her social media that night to say “sitting at the Bow Budget…meeting…they are talking some tough cuts (2 million dollars)!!!” She clearly misrepresented what happened. Her Facebook post at 9:17 p.m. was more than an hour after the committee had merely asked the school administration to see what a level funded budget (the same as last year’s spending) would look like. No one proposed a $2 million dollar cut that night.

Board member Strong-Rain then went off the deep end by pleading that “if you have children you MUST rally the troops.” In an update she said “It is a scary meeting!!!!”

This kind of hysteria by a public official is not going to help Bow fill the $14,000,000 hole we face. Taxpayers should retire her at the next election she faces in Bow. As a school teacher in Concord she should know better than to intentionally misinform her “troops” in Bow.

In response to the Budget Committee’s request to consider funding the schools at the same level they actually spent last year Dean Cascadden, our school superintendent, brusquely said that proposal would “impact the school program negatively,” if we funded the schools with the exact same amount they spent last year.

It is easy for Cascadden to refuse any cuts because he lives in Meredith and takes $200,000 a year in salary and benefits up 1-93 paid for primarily by Bow taxpayers.

The town budget has been cut by hundreds of thousands. Why can’t the schools pitch in for their share of shared sacrifice due to the $14 million dollar power plant hit?

Cascadden has not one single dollar at stake as a Meredith taxpayer but he gave a nose thumb to those of us in Bow who have to pick up the pieces.

We wear it – not the Man from Meredith. You the voters need to consider why Bow police, fire and emergency services can be cut but the schools are an untouchable sacred cow!
Don’t fall for it!

We who live in Bow and serve on the Budget Committeeare not the devil incarnate. We are trying to do the right thing in a very, very difficult situation.

Support us, not the Man from Meredith who has no skin in the game.

Bow Loses Power Plant Case

Reprinted from The Bow Times

Millions of tax dollars are at issue due to the recent loss of a court case involving the value of the Merrimack Station coal-fired plant in Bow. In 2012 the town set an assessed value of $159 million for all Eversource-owned property. However, in an appeal of that number to court, Judge McNamara concluded it was only worth 42% of that number or $66.6 million. The numbers for 2013 were similar.

Town counsel Paul Fitzgerald has appealed the decision, but the chances of overturning it are not great.

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.

Judge Richard McNamara pointed to other recent values for the coal-fired plant to help credit his conclusion that the plant itself was only worth $18,900,000. That value dispute was the major issue in the assessment of all of Eversource’s properties in Bow. He said professional valuation firm Liberty Consulting Group had a 2013 value of $15,400.000 while La Capra Associates placed a 2014 value of $10,000,000 on the plant. The judge was critical of the Bow valuation expert, George Sansoucy, for values “many orders of magnitude higher” than those of PSNH expert John Kelly.

At several points in his opinion Judge McNamara found Sansoucy not to be a credible witness. Sansoucy testified that a probable purchaser of the plant would replace it with a new coal-fired plant “despite the fact that no coal-fired plant has been built in New England is decades and natural gas has become an increasingly large share of the region’s power plant mix.” Kelly used a gas fired replacement plant reflecting the modern changes in energy markets. Fracking, said the judge, has led to dramatic production in natural gas and at lower prices than coal, so he sided with PSNH’s expert.

In another part of his opinion the judge found Sansoucy lacked credibility when he claimed coal prices could be competitive some time in the future: “It is based on pure supposition and it flies in the face of compelling evidence regarding changes in the fuel market.”

Turning to an analysis of the two jet engines (or combustion turbines) that are fired up only at extreme demand times, Sansoucy found the 50 year old engines to be good for another 25 years and therefore worth $8,000,000. Judge McNamara said, “the court cannot accept that conclusion” as to the obsolete equipment.

At several other points in his opinion Judge McNamara found Sansoucy not credible, thus making an appeal difficult because the Supreme Court does not weigh credibility. It leaves that to the trial judge.

According to the Town Manager, refunded taxes and interest owed to Eversource are:

2012 $5,106.355
2013 $3,535.232
2014 (EST.) $3,000,000
2015 (EST.) $3,000,000
TOTAL $14,641,587

It is possible that the above amount could be bonded for 20 years at 4% interest costing about $1,000,000 a year to pay over time for principal and interest.