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Three vying for city mayor seat in Franklin

Monitor staff
Published: 9/20/2019 6:24:23 PM
Modified: 9/20/2019 6:24:09 PM

Voters in Franklin will face a ballot filled with people with who want to serve in city government.

Mayor Tony Giunta will face two challengers who think they can improve on the work he’s done during the past two years. Each of the three city council seats will have contested races, including a trio of newcomers in the city’s Ward 2.

On the school side, however, only one candidate, current board chair Tim Dow, stepped forward out of three seats up for election on Oct. 1.

Franklin has a tax cap that limits increases in spending, while at the same time the city struggles with falling assistance from the state and a thin tax base. The result is a question of how to spark growth in the city and provide property tax relief.

“People are afraid that if that tax cap is changed in any way or modified, that they won’t be able to live or that it will drive away business,” said Leigh Webb, one of three candidates for mayor. “But you get what you pay for and unless we have an intelligent conversation how we move forward and find the funding we will constantly falling behind.”

As mayor, Giunta said he has always balanced the needs of businesses and developers in Franklin with the needs of the school system.

The schools in property-poor Franklin are drastically underfunded – the district has been around $1 million short for four years in its budget. Almost 40 staff positions have been eliminated in that time.

But the city’s tax cap, which prevents the city from raising taxes to increase school funding, is driving developers into the city. Those developments will increase the city’s tax base, which will help the schools in the long run, Giunta says. That’s why it has to stay, he said.

The two know each other well, as Giunta beat Webb in the last election. A third candidate, David Furbush, was unavailable for this story.

Webb and Giunta disagree on other issues related to school funding. Take Gov. Chris Sununu’s veto of the state budget, which delayed state aid school funding from arriving in Franklin, for instance.

Giunta supported the governor’s veto because it protected a low business profits tax; Webb wished Sununu had signed it.

“These are major major employers and what they are telling me is that we have a problem,” Giunta said of the possibility of rising business taxes. “That would be absolutely catastrophic if we have high business tax and money is returning to our schools, but our largest employer leaves.”

Webb disagrees with Giunta and supports the superintendent and school board chair who wanted the largest possible amount of money coming to Franklin schools.

“He is someone who cares about business in Franklin, but we have a slightly different approach,” Webb said of Giunta. “He supports the reduction of business taxes, but hasn’t suggested an alternative to education funding and money that we need.”

Webb said a healthy, collaborative relationship between the city and school board is a vital step in turning Franklin’s schools around.

“There have been instances where times where during city council meetings, emotions have risen and I think its really important to have all discussion and negotiations and amicable and friendly and civil environment,” he said. ” I would like to make sure whatever can do as part of the process to make that a little friendlier.”

Giunta said he thinks he has done a good job working with the school board – and wants another two years to achieve more.

“Experience is our best teacher. It really does take four years to get the projects you’ve started finished,” he said, referring to multiple redevelopment efforts in the city’s downtown. “There are so many of them going on right now that I would really like to see these through to fruition.”

Other races

In Franklin’s Ward 1, incumbent Arthur Starkweather will face off against Timothy Johnston.

 In Ward 2, voters will chose between Paul Doucett, Desiree McLaughlin and Olivia Zink. Incumbent Vincent Ribas did not run for re-election.

In Ward 3, incumbent Kathy Lauer-Rago will run against April Bunker.

No candidates filed to run for school board in Wards 1   and 2. Only Timothy Dow filed to run in Ward 3 .

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