Warner wrestles with tax increases at town meeting

  • Warner Public Works Director Tim Allen talks before the town meeting on Saturday, March 16, 2019 at the town hall. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Warner town residents Dave Hertzog (left) and Bill Balsam discuss town business at the Warner town meeting on Saturday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Linda and David Hartman are recognized for their service by the town of Warner at the town meeting on Saturday, March 16, 2019. He served as a selectman. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 3/16/2019 4:24:02 PM

A projected $1 increase to the town tax rate gave some Warner residents sticker shock during Saturday’s town meeting.

That hike would occur if every warrant article passed, but budget committee Chairman Michael Cutting said nearly two-thirds of the increase would come from the bond payment related to the town’s new fire station. The rest was tied to the budget and about $638,000 worth of warrant articles.

The increase would have meant an extra $250 a year for a home worth $250,000.

“When you go to pay your taxes in December, don’t blame the tax assessor, don’t blame the tax collector, don’t blame the selectmen,” Cutting said. “The reason these taxes go up is because we voted on these warrant articles.”

That set in motion a sometimes tense discussion about the operating budget. Residents ultimately voted to decrease the $3.3 million budget by about $34,000 after an amendment from budget committee member John Leavitt.

Leavitt, an outgoing member of the committee, said bringing the budget down would curb unnecessary spending by the select board.

His comment seemed to anger outgoing select board member John Dabuliewicz. “To say the select board doesn’t care about spending does a disservice to the board and every other department,” Dabuliewicz said. “Having a surplus comes from things we don’t anticipate, especially vacancies and other things we don’t expect to happen.”

Residents were leery of adding extra money to the budget to the point that they nixed an amendment adding $2,000 to the operating budget. The money would have gone to buying 10,000 brochures advertising the town’s assets around the state, said Charlie Albano, head of the town’s Economic Development Advisory Committee.

Instead, that $2,000 ended up in another warrant article concerning Riverbend Community Mental Health. The mental health service, which is based out of Concord, also has a small office in Warner serving under 100 people, said Riverbend Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Allan Moses.

Riverbend hasn’t asked individual towns for donations for a while, Moses said, because Merrimack County used to provide them with $100,000 a year. But that amount was halved and then eventually disappeared, putting the organization “back on the road,” Moses said.

The $200 article got a boost after budget committee member Martha Bodnarik made a motion to raise its amount to $5,000.

“$200 is an insultingly low number for the services these people provide,” she said.

Rebecca Augury, who works at Concord Hospital, said she has seen firsthand the results of the boarding crisis in New Hampshire, where mental health patients are held in emergency rooms due to lack of inpatient beds.

“We pay for this one way or another,” she said.

Eventually, a counter amendment was made to reduce the amendment to $2,500, the original amount Riverbend had asked the town for, according to budget committee members.

Ultimately, residents voted to approve roughly $626,000 worth of warrant articles, on top of the operating budget.

They rejected a measure that would have put $11,100 towards a GIS system for property tax assessments after residents expressed privacy and spending concerns.

Most of those warrants went toward putting anywhere from $4,000 to $153,000 into various capital reserves and trust funds.

Residents also voted to table an article that would have directed the select board to stop its efforts to sell the old fire station building after the select board said that a party is interested in leasing, possibly to own, the structure.

Voters decided they were fine with discontinuing the Class VI road known as the Sanborn Trace on the Badger Lane conservation area, as the road has turned into a bog and is underwater. They were assured by the Conservation Commission member Nancy Martin that hikers could visit the old cow pound out there anytime they wanted.


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