Pembroke dealing with loss or revenue from pandemic-squeezed room and meals tax

  • Pembroke Academy as seen on April, 2, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz

Monitor staff
Published: 1/28/2021 10:31:57 AM

With the pandemic and ensuing economic hardships disrupting so many aspects of life, Pembroke’s town administrator, Dave Jodoin, has a piece of advice for residents.

Pick up your packets containing budgets, tax information and rescheduled meeting dates prior to the online budget public hearing on Feb. 4.

Both proposed budgets, town and school, will be available Monday, giving voters three days to prepare for the meeting on the 4th.

That gathering, for final discussion on budgets and warrant articles, will include input from voters without the traditional, intimate toppings these meetings normally feature.

The next step, voting itself, will have to wait until these pandemic-fueled proceedings yield solid town meeting dates. Town and school officials can choose to postpone annual meetings until the summer, per an executive order by the governor.

Jodoin said this year’s town proposed budget, at $8.7 million, reflects a 1.6 percent increase over last year’s budget. He estimated the tax rate would rise 15 cents per $1,000 of a property’s value. That means a property assessed at $300,000 would see an increase of about $45 for the year.

Superintendent Patty Sherman and business administrator Amber Wheeler were not available to provide data from the school side.

No matter what numbers have surfaced by now, though, Jodoin discouraged residents from trying to digest the budget presentation during the meeting itself. Jodoin noted the image may be dark or fuzzy, and therefore hard to read.

He recommended people study the options and numbers in advance of the meeting on Feb. 4.

“I urge people to have the documentation they need before this meeting starts,” Jodoin said. “They’ll be at the town hall and the school district and on the website and you can print it out at home. That will be key because we will go page by page on what is posted.”

All of Pembroke’s public budget meetings have been held remotely, with two or three residents tuning in each time, Jodoin said.

“It will be interesting to see how many log in for the public hearing on the 4th,” Jodoin said. “It’s the same format as if seeing a presentation at Pembroke Academy. People can listen to presentations and ask questions anytime.”

The town budget includes some COVID-related consequences that have never been seen before, like a drop in revenue from a shrinking meals and rooms tax. Jodoin said that sum was significant.

In addition, Jodoin mentioned a shared revenue program that expired after a two-year run, cutting state aid by 30 percent to the town and leaving an $800,000 hole in the school budget.

The town’s most expensive request will be $325,000 for a new garbage truck, paid for with money in a capital reserve fund. That expenditure will have no effect on the tax rate.

“The tax impact sheet will lay out the tax increase for town, school and county,” Jodoin said, reiterating how vital it is for people to do their homework before they log in on Thursday, Feb. 4.

Governor Chris Sununu issued an emergency order last Friday allowing a town’s and school district’s governing body, in conjunction with the town moderator and town clerk, to move deliberative and traditional meetings to the second Tuesday in April, May, June or July.

In normal years, SB2 towns would finalize their town warrants and budgets in an open forum, then hold actual in-person ballot voting on election day to choose the fate of budgets and warrant articles. 

Pembroke uses a traditional framework, with voters going to polls on election day to pick their leaders, then meeting on that following Saturday to utilize hand votes and sometimes secret ballots to finalize warrant articles and budgets.

Pembroke’s town meeting is scheduled for March 13, and Jodoin said that still might happen. The select board will meet Monday to discuss the possibility of postponing the date to one of the warmer options.

Jodoin said the school board and budget committee met remotely earlier this month, at which time the budget committee suggested cuts. The board met four days later to discuss changes in the budget, and it was at that time, Jodoin said, that May 1 became the target for the new school district meeting.

Jodoin said that, to the best of his knowledge, students will return to in-class learning. 

There’s a lot to learn, Jodoin said, reiterating his call for residents to do thhomework before the 4th.

“All will have an opportunity to get the budgets ahead of time,” Jodoin said. “We want to make sure you have them before that meeting.”

Ray Duckler bio photo

Ray Duckler, our intrepid columnist, focuses on the Suncook Valley. He floats from topic to topic, searching for the humor or sadness or humanity in each subject. A native New Yorker, he loves the Yankees and Giants. The Red Sox and Patriots? Not so much.

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