What Might They Have Learned?

By S.D. Plissken | March 21, 2020

A Milton official got up on his hind legs this past year to misinform the Board of Selectmen (BOS) that they have “The Power” to “prudentially manage” the affairs of the town, and that their use of that Power is unquestionable.

Of course, he was fundamentally wrong, and wrong in several ways. The “American system” is based upon the Lockean principle that sovereignty resides in the people, who lend it only to a government of their choosing, and that they do so for a very few limited purposes. Should that government fail, or otherwise abuse its people, such that it loses its their support, it does not just go merrily along unquestioned. Sovereignty reverts instead to those that lent it.

Both the Federal and New Hampshire constitutions acknowledge this. The New Hampshire one is actually clearer and firmer than the U.S. Constitution in setting forth its terms. Parenthetically, I witnessed this last year – with some displeasure – a New Hampshire judge override a witness who cited their rights as set forth in the NH Constitution. The judge translated for the record the witness’ words – and their meaning – into terms of the less protective US Constitution. There was a presiding “NH” judge denying the very constitution that authorized his actions. That judge needs to be both questioned and perhaps recalled. (Time to elect judges?).

Many have asserted, with some underlying logic, that groups of people can not assert aggregate rights and powers that they do not possess themselves as individuals.

Consider, if you will, the well-known “How Many Men?” progression, or reductio ad absurdum, that illustrates their point.

  1. Is it a theft if I take my neighbor’s twelve-pack of toilet paper (“ripped from the headlines!”) – or any other resource belonging to them – at gunpoint?
  2. Is it a theft if five or six of us take my neighbor’s resources at gunpoint?
  3. Is it a theft if twenty or a hundred of us agree together – let us call it an election – to take my neighbor’s resources at gunpoint, and then do so?
  4. Is it a theft if the group votes to take my neighbor’s resources at gunpoint, but allows that neighbor to vote too?
  5. Is it a theft if the group, now including the neighbor, votes to take the neighbor’s resources at gunpoint, but gives some of them to some other, less fortunate neighbors?

And so on. Obviously, Step One is an outright theft, but at which step did it cease to be so? How did a group of people somehow acquire the “right” to commit thefts that would be crimes if perpetrated by them individually? Those making this argument – we might think of them as logical purists – claim that this progression to superhuman rights is just “magical thinking.” Groups do not have and can never acquire any aggregate rights above those possessed by them as individuals, and that their actions remain forcible thefts throughout the progression.

George Washington is credited with having observed honestly (he could not tell a lie) that “Government is force; like fire it is a dangerous servant – and a fearful master.” Effectually, he acknowledged the underlying force employed, warned against it, and went on to use it nevertheless.

If we were to be less pure than the purists, and join George in putting aside moral questions of forcible theft and try to go on nevertheless, what are the limits?

Obviously, the cleanest course of action would be achieving consensus – everyone agreeing unanimously on what needs to be done or spent. No force at all would be required if a consensus could be achieved.

From there, the lesser next option would be gaining some sort of overwhelming majority. However, it must be acknowledged that such a majority would be forcing its will upon a minority. (“Two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for lunch”).

The constitutions mentioned above seek to limit the types of things that might be forced upon an unwilling minority, even forbidding some altogether. (“Shall make no law” and “Shall not be infringed”). Of course, governments try always to redefine or extend their limits beyond those paper walls. (It remains a well-known legal principle that unconstitutional laws are not laws at all).

Bringing this back down to our particular patch of earth, Milton officials should tread quite lightly indeed. None of them have received anything like an overwhelming majority. (Not entirely their fault). Most hold their offices through bare majorities of a minority of the electorate. Some hold their offices through having received minorities of that minority. And some have been appointed to their positions by others whose own mandates are not particularly strong. These “mandates,” if we may call them that, should not be overstated or extended very far at all.

Given that all of that is true, one might expect them to restrict themselves to managing a minimal government at the lowest possible cost. Grand views of “prudentially managing” the property and lives of others should be entirely out of the question. (“Any government powerful enough to give you everything you want will be powerful enough to take from you everything you have”).

For some years now, Milton officials have gone inexplicably in quite the other direction. They have been voting unanimously for measures and expenses that do not enjoy anything like unanimous support from those they purport to represent, quite the contrary in fact. They just last week discovered their error. (Yes, a bit slow in the uptake). Should they fail to set a truer course going forward, one imagines they might find themselves facing default budgets for years to come.

A reasonable course correction would have them disgorging most of their hoarded “fund balance” as tax reductions. Most of the proposals for which they took it got rejected anyway. After that, they should make certain that it never again resembles a dragon’s hoard, by adjusting the percentage through which it is forcibly taken downwards, way downwards.

Likely, that would require extending their CIP acquisition timelines much further out. (Assuming that a CIP plan that needs a dragon’s hoard to sustain it is not simply dismantled altogether, which is a distinct possibility).

It would require some planning on their part, some actual planning that takes into account what the least among us can afford. Otherwise, it would just be theft.

Article #24: A Safety Guide Rail

By S.D. Plissken | March 9, 2020

If one takes the kiddies down to the Hilltop Fun Center (“Seacoast’s Largest Attraction Center!”) in Somersworth, they might drive a Go-Kart on one of the four Go-Kart Tracks. Of course, for safety’s sake, the child must have reached certain heights for this Go-Kart or that Go-Kart, the minimum being that they must be able to reach the pedals.

And beyond those minimum age and size requirements, the tracks themselves are equipped with a “Complete rail system” that runs down the center of the trackway. The Go-Karts have their left-side wheels on one side of this center guide rail and their right-side wheels on the other side. This rail system is intended to keep the Go-Karts on the track, regardless of where its inexperienced driver might steer. (The more advanced Go-Kart tracks are bounded by rubber barriers on either side of the trackway). It would cease to be “Fun” if the Go-Karts crashed into each other, ran off the track, or even flipped over.

In the matter of Milton’s Town taxation, our officials ran off the track and into a ditch quite some time ago. And they have shown little inclination to get back on the right track, a sustainable one.

Fortunately, the Milton Taxpayers’ Association (MTA) has devised a “rail system” to keep our officials on the track. Officials will no doubt continue to veer wildly back and forth, but will be less able to flip the Go-Kart, run into a ditch, or even cross onto other tracks where they might crash into our homes and livelihoods.

The MTA gathered and filed sufficient signatures to put their safety “rail system” – a Tax Cap – on the ballot.

Article 24: Adoption of a Tax Cap (Submitted by Petition)

Shall we adopt the provisions of RSA 32:5-b, and implement a tax cap whereby the governing body (or budget committee) shall not submit a recommended budget that increases the amount to be raised by local taxes, based on the prior fiscal year’s actual amount of local taxes raised, by more than the lesser amount of (a) 2%; or (b) the percentage by which the U.S. Consumer Price Index – All Urban Consumers for the Northeast, published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (“the index”) as of the month of January of each year, increased, if any, over the index for the month of January of the immediately-preceding year (3/5 Majority Vote Required).

Not recommended by the Board of Selectmen (0,3,0).

Such measures are in place already in most New Hampshire cities. Milton is not a city, but its Town government seems strangely to have urban aspirations, especially as regards increasing itself beyond all reason, and in perpetually increasing taxes to sustain that aggrandized government.

The Milton Board of Selectmen, in unanimously not recommending this measure have, in effect, given it the very highest recommendation possible.

References:

Hilltop Fun Center. (2020). 4 Go-Kart Tracks. Retrieved from hilltopfuncenter.com/attractions/rookie-racers/

Article #1: Some Contested Races

By S.D. Plissken | March 8, 2020

Article #1 is the list of the fourteen Milton Town offices to be filled and the candidates vying to fill them.


Uncontested Elections

Three seats (one one-year and two three-year terms) on the Budget Committee have but a single candidate, one three-year seat as Cemetery Trustee has but a single candidate, one two-year seat on the Planning Board has but a single candidate, another two three-year seats on the Planning Board have but two candidates, one six-year seat as Supervisor of the Checklist has but a single candidate, the Treasurer’s position has but a single candidate, and one three-year seat on the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) has no candidates at all.

There is little point in voting for (or against) any of the uncontested candidates. The candidates themselves bear no fault in having no actual competition for these offices. However, it should be a matter of great concern that so many offices can be assumed simply by filling out a form. It is worse still that when nobody does even that much, the BOS simply “selects” a winner. That is pretty much having offices and boards run by the selectmen, but with extra steps. All of this suggests strongly that there should simply be fewer Town boards, committees, and offices.

For example, the Planning Board and the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) were formerly a single board. One assumes they were separated so that the ZBA could function as a sort of “appeal” from the Planning Board’s delicious concoctions. But if the ZBA simply refers such appeals back to the Planning Board, as was the case in the Binker Brothers’ startup and the Mi-Te-Jo meetings, or if the same people sit on both boards, as has been the case, or if the BOS can threaten to ‘sic “its” various boards onto unoffending property owners, as Chairman Thibeault did recently to the new owner of the old firehouse, then having two boards is entirely pointless, even dangerous.

And now the BOS has recommended a warrant article that would hive off the Planning Board’s dubious Capital Improvement Program (CIP) plan to yet another board, whose seats will be entirely “in the gift” of the Selectmen. (Their interest perhaps arises out of the Planning Board’s failure to process the CIP plan in a timely manner – Standing Idle). All of this would seem to be giant steps in the wrong direction. It might be that if the Planning Board and the ZBA were recombined, the CIP plan simply discontinued (as it should be), and the number of seats on the recombined board were reduced, there might be enough candidates for an actual election.


Contested Elections

Only the offices of Selectman, Library Trustee, and Trustee of the Trust Funds have contested elections.

For Selectman

For the single three-year Board of Selectmen seat, there are three candidates: Lawrence D. “Larry” Brown, Matthew S. Morrill, and Humphrey Williams.

The Candidates’ Night recording was only partial, and its parts appeared in several places, so the candidate statements must be relied upon here.

Lawrence D. “Larry” Brown has held nearly every Town office, as well as having been for multiple terms Milton’s NH State Representative. He does not appear to have issued a statement on this occasion (nor has his usual signage appeared yet). However, at a Board of Selectmen’s meeting nearly a year ago, he gave a fairly comprehensive review of his views and career, which we then reported under the title Milton as Brigadoon. Mr. Brown held positions this last year as a Library Trustee, an Alternate member of the Planning Board, and as a member of the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA).

At last year’s candidate’s night, Mr. Brown declared that he felt it would be impossible to reduce or even hold the line on taxes.

Williams, Humphrey - 2020Humphrey Williams held a seat this last year on the Budget Committee, as well as on the Milton Economic Development Committee (MEDC), and as an Alternate on the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA). His campaign statement from the last election (Meet Mr. Williams) made much sense. His statement this year follows:

Humphrey Williams. I will work to insure the Select Board:

    • Takes the lead in creating a cooperative environment amongst the various boards and committees.
    • Establishes sound financial goals for the town – including setting spending limits & funding actual “needs” versus “wants.”
    • Works with Town Administrator, Department Heads & Employees to find Cost Saving Measures to reduce the operating budget.
    • Find ways to clean up downtown and bring in new businesses such as Restaurants, Deli or Meat Market, Sports or Recreation.
    • Maintains the scenic beauty and heritage of our community while creating new business and revenue stream opportunities.
    • Find ways to develop Commercial Opportunities in the Exit 17 and Exit 18 areas.

Mr. Williams has me right down to cleaning up the downtown and bringing in new businesses, and creating revenue streams. Those are tasks for the free market, rather than any government. Bring government taxes back down to earth, cut back on government committees, and the regulations and restrictions that they foster, and the free market could fix the rest.

Matthew S. “Matt” Morrill introduces himself here as a candidate for selectman – he has spent two years already on the Planning Board – in the following statement:

Matt Morrill for Selectman

Morrill, Matt - 2020I would like to introduce myself for anyone who does not already know me, My name is Matt Morrill, I am 32 years old and was born and raised in Milton Mills, NH. I graduated from Bishop Brady High School, and shortly after that, I entered the Military. I am still an active Army Reserve Member, after serving my country in the Middle East attaining the rank of Staff Sargent.

I have served on the Planning Board for the past 2 years, and I am aware of all the issues facing us as a small town in need of alternative tax revenue and growth, while still keeping the town a great place to live. I am a local business owner and the father of two children. My wife and I have chosen to raise our family in Milton Mills. My family has been part of the Milton Mills landscape for over 70 years. I have been active in some local organizations such as End 68 Hours of Hunger and the Recreation Department, and have led fundraising events for both organizations.

At this point in my life, I feel our town is in need of some changes. As a local businessman, I have concerns with the rate in which our taxes are accelerating. I feel that we need to seriously take a look at all our options for our children. Whether our students remain being educated in Milton, or if we decide to tuition them out to another town, I would like to be part of that process.

Our current school system is our most expensive tax burden, it is imperative for us to figure out what our options are as a town. If we choose to keep our children in town, we need to figure out a better system than just taxing our residents out of their homes. If we tuition them out, we need to find the best system to fit our children’s needs. I will come to the table with an open mind, and work hard to help figure this out.

My military background has served me well in the area of leadership, self mindedness, and making tough decisions. I would lead with the town’s best interest as my moral compass. I would stand behind my decisions, and work hard to make this town a great place to live. I have lived here my entire life, and would like to retire here and have my children have the ability to do so as well, if they chose to.

I hope you will consider me as your candidate to do so. We as a town need to make some tough decisions, I ask you for your vote, and hope you will help me get elected so we can make these changes together and make Milton Great Again!

Welcome, Mr. Morrill. Much of his statement concerns itself with School taxation, which is certainly our largest problem, but perhaps not within a selectman’s purview.

As for Town taxes, seeking “alternative” tax sources (such as some variant of income taxes) might imply maintaining current spending levels, while tapping some other poor souls, or different pockets of the same poor souls, in order to keep the game afloat. That would be just kicking an “accelerating” tax problem further down the road. But, perhaps I misunderstand.

Mr. Walden, a BOS candidate from last year, posted some further details regarding Mr. Morrill’s positions that enlarge upon his original statement.

Why vote for Matt Morrill?

    • Availability. As a local business owner He is Around town throughout the day, you’ll probably see him face to face quite often and he is always willing to speak with people about their concerns in a language that everyone can understand.
    • Proven Commitment to Improving the Town’s Image. Matt has been involved with various community projects and has never hesitated to donate his time or resources when the situation has presented itself.
    • A Commitment to Our Children. As a father with a family of his own, Matt understands that even though we all don’t agree on the direction of our school system we still need to make the best of what we have, Matt actively participates in and organizes events for school supply drives and programs such as end 68 hours of hunger.
    • Fiscal Accountability. Matt believes that we need to start tasking our department heads with decreasing their budgets by 2% a year annually in conjunction with spending more of YOUR leftover money at the end of the year on paying down the tax rate versus trying to spend it in deceptively worded warrant articles.

Matt, more than any candidate running for selectman is in touch with the pulse of the town and understands the real struggles and frustrations that families are having in town with the way things are being handled.


For Library Trustee

For the single three-year Library Trustee seat, there are two candidates: Lawrence D. “Larry” Brown and Anne Nute.

I have seen no statement by Ms. Nute, but one would hope her positions present a contrast to those of Mr. Brown.

(Subject to revision should statements become available).


For Trustee of the Trust Funds

For the single three-year Trustee of the Trust Funds seat, there are two candidates: Karen J. Brown and Anne Nute.

Ms. Brown is running as an incumbent. She is also running unopposed for Supervisor of the Checklist. She has long been Recreation Director.

I have seen no statements by Ms. Brown or Ms. Nute.

(Subject to revision should statements become available).

Articles #17 and #18: Less Democracy for You

By S.D. Plissken | March 3, 2020

Article #17 shares with Article #18 a proposed structural change to the Town government, sought by that same Town government, by which democracy in Milton is to be reduced.

That would be sufficient reason – in and of itself – to vote against both of these articles. In a 1947 speech before the British House of Commons, Winston Churchill observed that “it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government, except for all those other forms.” If Churchill’s witticism is correct, Milton’s Board of Selectmen proposes changing our worst form of government to one of those other forms that are even worse. Worser? Worstest?

(Having just participated in Hitler’s downfall and facing then Stalin’s erection of the Iron Curtain, Churchill had some experience of authoritarian socialist forms of government, whether of either the National or the International variety).

The “Independent” Capital Improvement Committee, To Be Appointed by the Milton Board of Selectmen

Article 17: Establishment of Independent Capital Improvement Committee

Shall the Town vote to authorize the Board of Selectmen to establish an independent committee pursuant to RSA 674:5 to prepare and amend the recommended program of municipal Capital Improvement Projects and to make budgetary recommendations to the Board of Selectmen. The committee, to be known as the Capital Improvement Program Committee, will have five (5) voting members to be appointed by the Board of Selectmen, and shall include at least One (1) member of the Planning Board.

Recommended by the Board of Selectmen (3,0,0).

RSA 674:5. LOCAL LAND USE PLANNING AND REGULATORY POWERS. Capital Improvements Program. 674:5 Authorization. – In a municipality where the planning board has adopted a master plan, the local legislative body may authorize the planning board to prepare and amend a recommended program of municipal capital improvement projects projected over a period of at least 6 years. As an alternative, the legislative body may authorize the governing body of a municipality to appoint a capital improvement program committee, which shall include at least one member of the planning board and may include but not be limited to other members of the planning board, the budget committee, or the town or city governing body, to prepare and amend a recommended program of municipal capital improvement projects projected over a period of at least 6 years. The capital improvements program may encompass major projects being currently undertaken or future projects to be undertaken with federal, state, county and other public funds. The sole purpose and effect of the capital improvements program shall be to aid the mayor or selectmen and the budget committee in their consideration of the annual budget.

The Capital Improvement Program has proven itself to be an abject failure in its stated objective of preventing tax spikes. It has instead produced a single rapidly-increasing tax slope – the upslope of single giant tax spike. Okay, anyone can see that, and feel it in every tax increase, so it is well past time to just get rid of it. Aah, therein lies the problem. It is in the very nature of government, and its interventions of every kind, that its abject failures are never “backed out” as they should be. Instead, government prefers always to “fix” its mistakes through applying more money and time in further interventions, which also fail.

For example, government-imposed wage freezes during WW II caused labor shortages. Naturally, due to nature’s laws of supply and demand, anyone would know that. Thus constrained, employers sweetened their wage offers with additional health care expense coverage. Now, wages and health care do not belong together in the normal course of events. The connections should have been dissolved when victory was achieved and price controls no longer necessary. But post-war governments instead enshrined, codified, regulated, and even required such employer health care coverage. And every subsequent problem and intervention by them has led us further and further down the garden path to the unaffordable health care we see today.

But, back to our failed cost-smoothing CIP intervention which (in conjunction with bloated fund balances) instead drives Milton taxes higher, ever higher. Government cannot bring itself to back out its failed intervention, so there must be instead further interventions. This particular intervention would remove the taxpayer’s check-and-balance of voting democratically for more reasonable, and thus slightly more accountable, Planning Board members (I know, “reasonable” central planning is an oxymoron).

We will have instead an appointed CIP Committee, whose members will be accountable only to the Board of Selectmen, who have themselves proven to be generally unaccountable.

Less democracy for you.

(See also Standing Idle, Capital Reduction Program (CRP)Milton and the Knowledge Problem, and Rubber Stamps).


The Milton Fire Chief, To Be Appointed by the Milton Board of Selectmen

The current fire chief is a fine man, although I have disagreed with some of his initiatives. (We could talk about that some other time). Although he has been challenged at the polls, he would likely be re-elected in perpetuity. But the Town’s “Master Plan” – a term usually associated with movie super-villains – plans for “us” to have an appointed fire chief rather than an elected one. You have to love these guys, right?

Article 18: Elected to Appointed Fire Chief

To see if the Town will vote in accordance with RSA 154:1, IV to change the organization of the fire department from RSA 154:1(c) where the Fire Chief is elected by the legislative body to RSA 154:1(a) where the Fire Chief is appointed by the Board of Selectmen and with the firefighters being appointed by the Fire Chief. When approved, the change from an elected to an appointed Fire Chief would take place no sooner than one (1) year following this vote. (Majority vote required).

Recommended by the Board of Selectmen (3,0,0).

The “when approved” portion of this is perhaps a bit presumptuous, even for misguided authoritarians. “If approved” would have been more correct when seeking to know “if the Town will vote.”

Imagine, if you will, that in the fullness of time our current fire chief – who currently holds his office through election – retires. The Board of Selectmen would appoint his replacement. It would be “in their gift,” as they say. I cannot see how that might be preferable to the election of his replacement by the voters of that distant time.

It works the other way round too. Imagine some tyrannical future Board of Selectmen simply dismissing this now-electable fire chief for some reason of their own, some unreasonable reason. Future voters will have little recourse, as you will have given up their democratic choice.

Less democracy for you, no democracy for them.

Article #6: A Long Walk on a Short Pier

By S.D. Plissken | March 2, 2020

Article #6 would have us join the Strafford County Regional Planning Commission, whose annual dues are currently $5,764.

Article 6: Strafford County Regional Planning Commission Membership Dues

To see if the Town will vote to raise and appropriate the Sum of Five Thousand Seven Hundred and Sixty-Four Dollars ($5,764) and to authorize the Town of Milton Selectmen / Administrator / Planner to pay said sum to the Strafford County Regional Planning Commission as dues for its fiscal year July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021 and thereafter to place the annual dues as may be adjusted from time to time into to [the] Town operating budget. (Majority vote required).

Estimated tax impact is $0.01 (One Cent).

Approved by the Board of Selectmen (3,0,0)

Approved by the Budget Committee (6,1,0)

We may note that the article’s language acknowledges frankly that those dues “may” be adjusted from time to time. That is to say, the annual dues will be adjusted upwards, both certainly and frequently. (There, I fixed it).

The bridge in question was already marginal when it was closed for the winter of 2010-11, because its revised load limit would no longer support snowplow equipment. The bridge was subsequently removed in 2012. It has been absent now for nearly eight years.

The stated justification for joining this regional planning commission was so that it might intercede on our behalf with the NH State Department of Transportation (NHDOT) in the matter of replacing the New Bridge Road bridge between Milton and Lebanon. A secondary justification given more recently was the regional planning commission’s assistance in helping us through the government-created regulatory morass in establishing conservation areas. (Thanks guys! Here’s $5,764 for your trouble).

Our Town planning entity wants “us” to join a Regional planning entity, complete with club dues, because the NH state planning entity (and its NH DOT planning entity) have passed us over in the matter of the bridge. Its projected replacement is years out from now, unless it gets postponed yet again. They might listen to us – or grant us more preferential treatment than those not paying these dues – if, and only if, we belong to this Regional planning entity.

Are we not paying already both Federal and State gas taxes to fund road and bridge improvements? (Those taxes being a substantial part of the per-gallon price). And have we not already set aside funds to pay for “our share” of this bridge? (As has Lebanon).

Assuming any part of the stated rationale was true, it would be the very definition of corruption on the part of the regional and state planners, as well as the NH DOT. That could not possibly be true, could it?

This channel is a very short span. During WW II, the army used pre-fabricated Bailey bridges to cross much wider bodies of water. They could be constructed from one side of a river – often under enemy fire – in very short times, days even. Those bridges could take the weight of heavy armored vehicles. Some postwar bridges of this type are still in use today.

Those unaware of the Hayekian “knowledge problem” might find themselves gobsmacked by the complete pig’s breakfast the various government planning entities have made of this. The bridge problem should not be a difficult one in itself. It is not as if they are going to build it themselves, as opposed to just paying contractors. The actual problem lies in it being planned by government. Add in other layers of government, such as the state and its DOT, and the governmental complexity, expense and delay only increases. (“Adding personnel to a overdue software project only delays it further”).

There is also the matter of the price. Without a price mechanism, government cannot “know” whether there should be many bridges or none at all, nor what they should cost. Their mechanism is the political means, for which it is evidently necessary to pay a “vig” to the government level above them.

To add in yet another layer of regional government will not help this at all. But it will cost us more than if we did not: $5,764 per annum more, at least to start.

Lebanon is considering simply abandoning this project. Alton pulled out of their regional planning commission two years ago. The petition by which they were liberated is available online. Just saying.


See also But, Who Will Build the Bridges?


References:

Bailey Bridge, Inc. (2020). Bailey Bridges. Retrieved from http://www.baileybridge.com/

Wikipedia. (2020, February 2). Bailey Bridge. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bailey_bridge

Wikipedia. (2020, February 22). Vigorish. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vigorish

 

Article #2: Milton’s Bloated Slush Fund

By S.D. Plissken |  February 29, 2020

A recent post (January 31) on local social media asked a very good question regarding the so-called “fund balance.”

Last year (2019) the Milton Operating Budget was defeated and the Town operated under a Default Budget. The December Expenditure Report shows a surplus of $739,128.00. Will this be used to offset taxes. or will it be used to fund Warrant Articles in 2020?

Audience members at the Deliberative Session asked related questions. For those who did not already know, the official replies tell quite a tale.

The term “fund balance” might suggest that this amount is only what is left over when the necessary budget categories are covered – a sort of rounding error or spare change. That is only partly true.

The NH State Department of Revenue Administration (DRA) “recommends” that Towns collect a tax overage, above and beyond the tax amounts necessary to cover the Town budget. In replies to audience questions, it emerged that the DRA recommendation was formerly to collect an additional 5% to 15%. This year’s proposed budget is $4,562,047.

So, following the DRA’s recommendation would have the Town collecting this year additional funds above the Town budget of between $228,102 (at 5%) and $684,307 (at 15%). In a town with about 2,300 tax properties, that would be an average tax overage of between $99 and $298 per property.

It emerged also that the DRA has in recent years narrowed their recommended tax overage range to something that tops out at about 8%. This narrower range has been implemented already in various other NH towns, towns whose governments are better than ours.

At the Milton Deliberative Session the various members of the Board of Selectmen (BOS) amended any and all articles that gave an estimated tax impact. They replaced those tax impact estimates with – let us not mince words – the same tired old lie about there being no tax impact or, as former Selectman Lucier preferred it, no additional tax impact, as the money would come magically from the unexpended fund balance.

I am not dim enough to fall for that – at least not more than once – but are you? Just as the fictional Soylent Green foodstuff was found ultimately to have been made out of people [!], we discovered last year that fund balances are made out of taxes [!!]. They are simply the DRA’s recommended tax “overages” from last year, over-collected and never returned.

Now, the thing about “recommendations” is that you need not adopt them. Town officials with any concern whatsoever for the taxpayers they supposedly represent would operate always at the lower end of the DRA’s recommended range. They might even disregard the DRA’s bad advice all together. But we have instead $739,128 worth of Soylent Green in our fund balance.

Obviously, we need to elect officials that put our interests – and particularly our ability to pay – before the fevered dreams of Town departments. We have for many years been disappointed by the various boards and committees, perhaps even feeling something akin to betrayal.

The answer to the social media question above – and the whole point of their removing the tax impact language from the various warrant articles – is “YES, this BOS absolutely intends to spend ‘your’ fund balance on warrant articles and not on tax relief.” But only if you are dim enough to vote for their warrant spending.

Despite the stated rationales when it was created, profligate spending is the entire point of having a CIP plan and of overtaxing us to fill magic fund balances. Remember, by definition, government has no “capital,” as such, with which to “plan.” Everything they spend is removed from your pocket.

References:

Calloway, Cab. (1931). Minnie the Moocher. Retrieved from www.youtube.com/watch?v=8mq4UT4VnbE

Heston, Charlton. (1973). Soylent Green Is People! Retrieved from www.youtube.com/watch?v=6zAFA-hamZ0

 

 

 

Milton’s 2020 Presidential Primary Election Results

By S.D. Plissken | February 25, 2020

The Presidential Primary election took place on Tuesday, February 11, 2020. 1,239 Milton voters took either a Democratic or Republican primary ballot.

As is usual, None-of-the-above won the election, in that about 60% of Milton’s registered voters gave the primary election a good leaving-alone and did not vote for any of the proffered candidates (nor did they write-in any other person).

Democratic Primary Ballots

696 Milton voters took a Democratic Party ballot. Of those, 195 (28.02%) voted for Bernie Sanders, 156 (22.42%) for Pete Buttigieg, 145 (20.83%) for Amy Klobuchar, 40 (5.7%) for Joseph R. Biden, 39 (5.6%) for Elizabeth Warren, 35 (5.03%) for Tulsi Gabbard, 33 (4.74%) for Tom Steyer, 17 (2.44%) for Andrew Yang, 6 (0.86%) for Deval Patrick, 3 (0.43%) for Michael Bennet, 2 (0.29%) for Julian Castro, 2 (0.29%) for Kamala Harris, 1 for Cory Booker, 1 (0.14%) for Ben Gleib Gleiberman, and 1 (0.14%) for Tom Koos.

In the Write-In category, 11 (1.58%) voted for Donald J. Trump, 6 (0.86%) for Mike Bloomberg, 2 (0.29%) for Mitt Romney, and 1 (0.14%) for Barack Obama.

The Democratic Party candidates in the 1-2-3 positions (bolded) received vote totals in a range that might get them a seat on the Milton Board of Selectmen in a Town election.

Republican Primary Ballots

543 Milton voters took a Republican Party ballot. Of those, 483 (88.95%) voted for Donald J. Trump, 29 (5.34%) for Bill Weld, 3 (0.55%) for Mary Maxwell, 2 (0.37%) for Larry Horn, 2 (0.37%) for Stephen B. Comley, Sr., 1 (0.18%) for Matthew John Matern, 1 (0.18%) for Eric Merrill, 1 (0.18%) for William N. Murphy, and 1 (0.18%) for Joe Walsh.

In the Write-In category, 17 (3.13%) voted for Bernie Sanders, 3 (0.55%) for Joseph R. Biden, 2 (0.37%) for Elizabeth Warren, 1 (0.18%) for Pete Buttigieg, 1 (0.18%) for Amy Klobuchar, and 1 (0.18%) for Tom Steyer.

Donald J. Trump received vote totals that would definitely get him a seat on the Milton Board of Selectmen, but the others not so much.

Why Are We Paying for This?

As usual, one might well question this exercise’s rationale. In the prior election cycle, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) argued in Federal court that they were a private organization that was not bound by the actual election results. That is to say, they could select whomever they wanted as the Democratic candidate, regardless of who won any actual primary elections. The Republicans had made similar arguments years earlier in refusing to seat Ron Paul delegates.

All of which begs the question: If these are just private club elections, as argued by the DNC, whose results the private clubs are not bound to respect, exactly why are these private club elections being conducted at public expense?

President George Washington, as well as other founding fathers, argued in his Farewell Address against having any political parties at all, let alone publicly funding their private club elections.

However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion (Washington, September 17, 1796).

Can Milton send an invoice for its primary election expenses to the respective parties’ “cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled” functionaries? On behalf of Milton’s 60% majority, that is, who might wish to free themselves from subsidizing those parties’ “unjust dominion.”


You see things; and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say, ‘Why not?’ (George Bernard Shaw).


References:

Milton Town Clerk. (2020, February). State Milton Results, Feb. 11, 2020. Retrieved from www.miltonnh-us.com/sites/miltonnh/files/pages/state_milton_results_feb_11_2020.pdf