Small Town Turns Frugal

It's not often I see something like this, particularly in our small town.

New Hampshire is usually portrayed as being particularly frugal. It's not as true as it used to be.

Many communities in the state have seen spending and taxes increase at well above the rate of inflation, even taking population growth into account. So it's been in our town.

This past year our property assessment went up 20%, while the town property tax rate went down. But the property taxes on The Manse went up 10%. That's about 6 points above the rate of inflation. Our town has seen new commercial properties come onto the tax rolls, some worth millions of dollars that added a substantial amount to the tax rolls and taxes collected. Yet the taxes went up.

Our town was not being frugal with its spending as it should have been.

For far too long many things that most people would consider nice-to-haves have somehow become need-to-haves. It's not quite as bad in our town as I have seen in others, but it was heading that way. And then the townspeople did something that gave me a glimmer of hope.

They voted down the school budget and an almost $1 million bond issue.

Last year's school budget was approximately $21,250,000. I don't know about you, but for a town of 7,000 people, that's a lot of money. This year's proposed school budget was set at approximately $22,700,000! I don't know about you, but that's a ton of money. Apparently the townspeople thought so, too. They said no to the budget, meaning that they school system would revert to what is called a 'default budget'. The default budget is basically the previous year's budget. That will save the taxpayers about $1.5 million of their hard earned money.

I wish I could say that the vote on the proposed school budget was solely based upon the economics, but like any small town, there were political issues that were probably just as much a cause of the voter's rejection of the budget. Since I feel there's no need to delve into something that has no interest to you, I'll spare all 13 of my readers from my rather insipid take on the whole thing. (Trust me, I'm doing you all a favor.)

But it seems that there is some movement to bring town spending under control. Some signs of that include the election of fiscally conservative candidates to the Budget Committee and the Board of Selectmen. I'd like to think that we might yet restore Yankee frugality to our small town, something we've badly needed for some time.

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