Article 13: Independent CIP Committee

By S.D. Plissken | March 2, 2021

This year’s Article 13 should seem familiar to you. It appeared just last year, in exactly the same form (including even the same typos), but was known then as Article 17. It failed then with 345 (45.2%) in favor and 418 (54.8%) opposed.

Article 13: Establishment of Independent Capital Improvement Program Committee. Shall the Town vote to authorize the Board of Selectmen to establish an independent committee pursuant to NH RSA 674:5 to prepare an amend the recommended program of 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. (Majority Vote Required).

Recommended by the Planning Board (7,0,0). Recommended by the Board of Selectmen (3,0,0).

It is apparent that the Town government is determined to have its “independent” CIP Committee. It would be independent only in the peculiar sense that its members would be selected by the Board of Selectmen, rather than elected by the voters. What could be more independent than that?

It was a bit of a speed bump when the voters “chose poorly” last year. Might the boards seek another, better solution? No, there must be an independent CIP Committee. Put it on the ballot again. We can keep doing it until the voters get it “right.”

This sort of thing is sometimes known as the “manufacturing,” “fabricating,” or “engineering” of consent.

We have seen this technique employed here before, most recently in the School Board election of last year. The pay raise measure on the School ballot was rejected then, but reappeared magically on the ballot in the very next election – the more lightly-attended September primary election – when it passed. That was some nice engineering. Not very subtle, perhaps, but it worked.

It is perhaps a bit disheartening that this little Article 13 “do-over” on the Town ballot has been recommended unanimously by both boards.

Now, the question on the ballot might be read as: “Are you as easily gulled as we think you are?” I hope not. I hope they are as wrong in this as they have been about so many other things. (Nil desperandum).

Vote “No” again, just as you did before but, if the measure should be rejected again, do not expect to have heard the last of this.


Government, therefore, should be open, accessible, accountable and responsive. – Article 8, NH Constitution


References:

NH General Court. (2002). Capital Improvements Program. Authorization. Retrieved from www.gencourt.state.nh.us/rsa/html/LXIV/674/674-5.htm

Wiktionary. (2019, October 14). Jiggery-Pokery, Retrieved from en.wiktionary.org/wiki/jiggery-pokery

Article 5: Employee Retention Plan

By S.D. Plissken | March 1, 2021

Back in 1967, the NH State Legislature undertook to pay 45% of the pension costs of  city and town employees. After about a decade, they dropped their contribution down to 35%.

It is no great secret that “You get more of what you subsidize and less of what you tax.” The cities and towns hired more employees, paid them more, and pensioned them at higher levels, then they had ever been able before. One might say that – flush with state subsidies – they took on more, much more, than was traditional, more than was strictly necessary, and certainly more than was fiscally prudent or sustainable. 

About eleven years ago, the NH Legislature ceased paying their 35% subsidy. They just did not have the money to keep it going. Their stated legislative intent at the time was that the cities and towns should cut back also.

Many – including Milton – did not choose to “rein in” their spending and instead increased property taxes. They have by now increased them far beyond our ability to pay. The spenders have been enabled by Federal inflation of the money supply, which drives up valuations of the properties taxed, although the incomes of the taxpayers have lagged behind. (Inflation benefits most those closest to its source). The increasing gap between the inflated valuations and incomes has become unsustainable, especially for those starting out in life (“Why, oh why, are the young people leaving?”) and for those at the other end of life who are living on fixed incomes.

Article 5: Employee Retention Plan. To see if the Town will vote to adopt the Employee Retention Plan, which establishes a Grade and Step Plan for classes of employees of the Town of Milton. If approved, any scheduled increases, as laid out in the Plan and approved by the Board of Selectmen, will be incorporated into the operating and default budgets in subsequent years starting with 2022. No funds shall be raised in 2021. (Majority Vote Required).

Recommended by the Board of Selectmen (3,0,0). Recommended by the Budget Committee (7,1,0).

It was explained at the Deliberative Session that the “Plan” would be updated at five-year intervals. That means two selectmen in the rotation could spend their entire three-year term, and the third one most of their three-year term, without ever actually having to vote on this. Future boards can be “dumbfounded” that salary and pension expenses keep rising and that those rising costs have crowded out other expenditures. Increases would be out of their hands, they would be unaccountable. That is, even more so than now.

It was an especially sardonic touch that this measure is entitled the “Employee Retention Plan.” Town officials have been bleating for years about their desperate employee retention measures. (The Police Department retention bonus scheme of several years ago would seem to have been only partially effective).

Labor is a commodity too. Right now, with government-induced Covid unemployment running 10% (at least), wages are falling. When and how did ignoring market prices in favor of “retention” ever become our top priority? No one voted for that.

The Town does not seem to understand the simple fact that Milton is (and always has been) a “starter” town, which is unable to outbid larger and better appointed places. It is monumental folly to even attempt to do so.

Even those larger entities have reached the end of their tether and will not be able to go much further. Some pushed hard – one might even say desperately – for a NH House bill (HB274), which sought to reanimate the corpse of state pension subsidies (at the 5% level) for cities and towns. (Who is dim enough to suppose it would ever stop at 5%?) That attempt failed last week in a 189-168 vote. The coffin lid was nailed down hard with a reconsideration vote. As they say, “that dog won’t hunt.”

Basically, this warrant article is a misguided attempt to place pay and pension increases first in future budgets – “all other priorities are rescinded” – and to do so with precious little accountability. (It would in that sense be a suitable sibling to the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) plan, which has for some years placed other expenditures on their own upward conveyer belt).

Just say “No.” (And perhaps – depending upon their rationale – give a tip o’ the hat to the lone member of the Budget Committee that voted not to recommend this monstrosity).


When you ask them, “How much should we give?” Ooh, they only answer, “More! more! more!” – CCR


References:

NH General Court. (2021). HB274-FN-L: Relative to Payment by the State of a Portion of Retirement System Contributions of Political Subdivision Employers. Retrieved from gencourt.state.nh.us/bill_status/Results.aspx?q=1&txtbillnumber=hb274&txtsessionyear=2021

Mr. Brown’s Deliberative Session Resolve

By S.D. Plissken | February 11, 2021

At the conclusion of the Milton School Board’s Deliberative Session of Saturday, February 6, 2021, Budget Committeeman (and ZBA member, and Local Government Efficiency Task Force member) Lawrence D. “Larry” Brown put forward a last-minute resolution from the floor.

Moderator: Does anyone else wish to speak? … Larry Brown.

Larry Brown: This is a … at the end of the Deliberative Session for the Town, I decided we’d had enough and rather than spend more time there, a different meeting. This is the text of a resolution regarding consideration, it requires a simple vote, up or down, no seconds, no amendments:

Resolved. The 2021 Town of Milton School Board Deliberative Session opposes the diversion of public education funding to private purposes and requests their State Representatives to support that position in the debate and with their vote on the House floor.

Moderator: Larry … is that a question, or …?

Larry Brown: That is a resolution to be voted for or against by the Deliberative Session …

The Moderator seemed a bit nonplussed. He referred the request to the School Board’s lawyer, who said it lay within the Moderator’s discretion. The Moderator chose not to take up the resolution.

There were but fourteen voters present in the audience, including the two State Representatives mentioned in Mr. Brown’s proposed resolution – who could hardly instruct themselves – and including also not a few Town officials (apart from the School Board members, Selectmen, Budget Committee members, etc., officiating at the dais).

The voters present made up only 0.4% – i.e., less than half of one percent – of Milton’s electorate.

Had such a resolution actually been voted upon and passed, it might have conveyed some sense of the majority (eight voters or more) of those few present at an underattended meeting (fourteen voters), but could hardly have conveyed any true sense of Milton’s electorate, and none at all of Middleton’s electorate. (The representatives being responsible to both Milton and Middleton).

One is left to assume that Mr. Brown was attempting a little humor or, perhaps, was engaged in a bit of trolling, which some consider to be a form of humor. If so, it fell just a bit flat.


It is a curious fact that people are never so trivial as when they take themselves seriously. –Oscar Wilde


References:

Legiscan. (2021). NH HB20 | 2021 | Regular Session. Retrieved from legiscan.com/NH/bill/HB20/2021

Milton School Board. (2021). Deliberative Session – February 06, 2021. Retrieved from www.youtube.com/watch?v=UG_c76h4YWI&t=2528s

Fangs and Freedom

By Ian Aikens | January 11, 2021

One of the few silver linings that has emerged from the pandemic is finally a significant number of parents are starting to take charge of their children’s education. Out of necessity more than choice, last year saw a notable drop in children “attending” government schools and an increase in homeschooling and pandemic PODs or micro-schools.

What exactly is a POD or micro-school? Actually, there are two different kinds: a self-directed POD and a learning support POD. Under a self-directed POD, parents unenroll their child from the existing traditional government school, charter school, magnet school, or private school. The parent is the teacher and is fully responsible for their child’s education and curriculum. This path is mostly associated with what folks call homeschooling. This differs from the learning support POD in that parents keep their child enrolled in their regular school but find a group of families for after-school activities and additional educational enrichment.

Like people, POD’s are as different as they come. The only thing they really have in common is that students gather together in small groups with adult supervision to learn, explore, and socialize. The parents come up with the rules and terms, which run the gamut for number of hours, fees, safety protocols, and just about everything parents can agree on for their children. They can be completely free or cost several hundred dollars per month. They offer significant flexibility to suit the parents’ and children’s needs and may gather for just 10-20 hours/week or just on certain days.

Just a little refresher here on New Hampshire homeschooling laws: school is compulsory for children aged 6-18, and parents must notify the school principal within 5 days of beginning homeschooling. There are no teacher qualifications and no immunization requirements, but state mandated subjects are science, math, language, government, history, health, reading, writing, spelling, history of the US and New Hampshire constitutions, and exposure to art and music. Parents must keep a portfolio of work samples for each student for two years and have each student evaluated annually. All things considered compared to other nanny states, intrusion is minimal in New Hampshire.

One interesting piece I read from a homeschooler demonstrates that there is no need to fear overzealous oversight by educational bureaucrats if you do your “homework” as a parent. When a new school administrator requested a list of books the parent was using for her children, the parent sent back a “Show Me” letter asking for the specific passage in the law where it states the parent must provide such a list. A few days later, the parent received a response from the school stating that she met the legal requirement to homeschool – without mentioning (wisely) the school list. Good for this parent – let the burden of proof for nonsense rest on the bureaucrats, not the taxpaying citizen.

How did we get to a point where a parent has to fear a school bureaucrat? Government schools have been around since the beginning of the country, but it might surprise you to know that such schools were mostly privately financed by fees paid by the parents – basically a user fee. True, local, county, and state governments did kick in some supplementary financing, especially for children whose parents couldn’t afford it. But, basically without being compulsory or free, almost every child was able to attend school.

Unfortunately, the busybodies weren’t content to leave well enough alone. Beginning in the 1840’s, a movement developed to make schools “free” by having parents and their neighbors pay for schools indirectly by taxes rather than directly by fees. (Just look at your most recent property tax bill and see how “free” they really are.) Tellingly, it was not the parents who led this movement but teachers and government officials. The most famous crusader was Horace Mann, the first secretary of the Massachusetts State Board of Education, who is now heralded as “the father of American public education.” While Mann and his ilk pitched the “good public investment” argument we’ve all heard ever since then, that was a smokescreen. It was really the teachers and bureaucrats pushing for their own self-interest for a greater certainty of employment, more security for their salaries being paid, and of course more control if government paid the bills rather than parents.

As no surprise to anyone, it’s all about control, and control is all about funding. If parents pay directly themselves, they pretty much have 100% say over their children’s education, but if schools are “free” because their neighbors are forced to pay, then control is gladly taken over by administrators, boards, councils, committees, and politicians. Well, we’re hardly going back to user fees for most parents after 170 years of “free” schools, but the idea of school choice has been gaining momentum in recent years, and last year’s dismal experience with remote learning is giving it a good boost.

If your neighbors are going to be forced to pay for your children’s education, why not direct that money right to the parents and let them pick the best school for their children? The taxpayers would be no worse off since tax extractions are still tax extractions, but the children would get a break for a change because their own parents know them better and are better guardians than strangers and, worse still, bureaucrats with their own agenda.

I’ll bet even if only 80% of what all levels of government spend on each child were to be paid to parents, government schools would see a mass exodus, and a whole new crop of educational options would open up for all children, not just the children of the elite. Since private, voluntary schools have a record of stretching dollars a lot further than government schools, 80% might be more than enough for most parents, but even if they had to dig into their own pocketbooks, most parents would be willing to do it because the desire to have your children succeed in life is universal. Funding “the children” rather than schools, institutions, and school districts would be a better way to accomplish that much overused term “the public good.”

Needless to say, the educational-industrial complex industry is not about to give up its stranglehold on “the children.” The teachers’ unions, bureaucrats, and politicians have fought the very notion of school choice for decades, and they’re not going down without a fight. Even charter schools, which are still government schools, have been targeted by the teachers’ unions and politicians for years because they have more independence and flexibility in how they operate. The fierce opposition has increased lately, despite the existence of charter school lotteries because demand by parents exceeds the supply. That alone should demonstrate what the real motives are of those with vested interests.

Since the pandemic started, the supporters of continuing this educational monopoly have really gone on the warpath. Here are but a few examples from all over the country. The Oregon Department of Education opposed school re-openings because “multi-family learning groups may slow the process of returning to school by creating more opportunities for spread among students and families.” The Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators lobbied to make it illegal for families to enroll in virtual charter schools during the lockdown because the school districts would be losing money. Then there was the Denver Board of Education which was “deeply concerned about POD long-term negative implication for public education and social justice.” And who can forget the teachers’ rallies in the fall with their mock body bags and signs proclaiming Not One Case? Never mind that New York City’s top health officials declared that “the public schools are among the safest public places around.”

As always, wealthier parents have turned to other alternatives like PODs, private schools, and tutors to take care of their kids while the children of parents on the lower end of the economic ladder are languishing at home with inferior online classes. Really showing their fangs this time, the unions, bureaucrats, and politicians rail about “equity,” “inclusiveness,” and “privilege,” but what alternatives have they presented? None – their hypocrisy is breath-taking. Not only do they not care what happens to the kids from poor families – they resent and oppose those who do escape their clutches. So that all will be equal, they prefer a race to the bottom.

While the funding conundrum will force many middle-class families back to the government school system after the pandemic has faded, I’m hoping a significant number will never return. Hopefully the extra money parents have to dig into their pockets for is worth the extra control they gained over their children’s education. Maybe they will have discovered that “free” wasn’t such a bargain after all.

References:

Clopton, Jennifer. (2020, August 14). Parents Turn to ‘Pods’ for School During Pandemic. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/lung/news/20200814/parents-turn-to-pods-for-school-during-pandemic

DeAngelis, Corey. (2020, September 2). Pa must fund students, not school districts. Retrieved from https://www.inquirer.com/opinion/commentary/philadelphia-virtual-learning-school-choice-coronavirus-pandemic-20200902.html

Friedman, Milton and Friedman, Rose. (1980). Free to Choose. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc.

Gerstenfeld, Adam. (2019, February 7). What Is A Charter School Lottery? Retrieved from https://www.publiccharters.org/latest-news/2019/02/07/what-charter-school-lottery

Rojas Weiss, Sabrina. (2020, August 11). How to Pod: These Parents Are Going Small to Stay Safe. Retrieved from https://www.sheknows.com/parenting/articles/2300187/how-to-form-pods-microschools/

Seaborne, Shay. (2010, December 15). The “Show Me Letter”. Retrieved from https://www.thehomeschoolmom.com/the-show-me-letter/

Time4Learning. New Hampshire Homeschool Laws & Requirements. Retrieved from https://www.time4learning.com/homeschooling/new-hampshire/laws-requirements.html/

Tuccille, J.D. (2020, November 4). Bureaucrats Declare War on Learning Pods. They’ll Lose. Retrieved from https://reason.com/2020/11/04/bureaucrats-declare-war-on-learning-pods-theyll-lose/

Welch, Matt. (2020, November 16). NYC’s school leaders fail poor children even as they cry about ‘equity’. Retrieved from https://nypost.com/2020/11/16/nycs-school-leaders-fail-poor-children-as-they-cry-about-equity/

Lesson in Survival

By Ian Aikens | November 25, 2020

For the quintessential American holiday of Thanksgiving that we celebrate tomorrow, it’s worth pondering if this is just another day to miss work or school, or is there something more significant to celebrate. Is there more to the tale of the Pilgrims escaping religious persecution in England, fighting starvation and the elements in the harsh New England winter with the help of local Indians, and celebrating a bountiful harvest in 1621?

It turns out the story is more complicated than the standard version we hear most often. The first clarification needed is the make-up of “the Pilgrims.” Of the 102 souls who sailed on the Mayflower, only 41 were actually Puritan Separatists, 18 were indentured servants bound as slaves for 7 years to their masters, and the other 43 were mostly Anglicans seeking economic opportunity in the New World. Another part of the standard narrative is that the colonists were hard-working, tenacious, and G_d-fearing. While there may have been some settlers who fit this description, according to William Bradford, who served as governor of the colony for 30 years, in his History of Plymouth Plantation, many of the colonists were lazy and refused to work in the fields. Stealing what little food there was became rampant, and the colony was overrun with corruption.

What caused the colonists to behave like this when their very lives depended on it? The arrangement was a joint-stock partnership named John Peirce and Associates between the colonists and a group of London merchants. It received a grant in 1620 from the South Virginia Company for a plantation in the Virginia territory. The terms of the alliance stipulated that each adult settler be granted a share in the joint-stock company, and each investment of 10 pounds receive a share. Herein lay the problem: “All settlers … were to receive their necessities out of the common stock. For seven years there was to be no individual property or trade, but the labor of the colony was to be organized according to the different capacities of the settlers. At the end of the seven years the company was to be dissolved and the whole stock divided.”

It should be noted that two concessions requested by the colonists in the original agreement might have made the arrangement in the New World workable despite its “It Takes A Village” emphasis. One was for the settlers to be granted separate plots of land near their houses, and the other was to allow them 2 days a week to cultivate their own land. The reason for requesting the two concessions was because most of the colonists had been tenant farmers in the open fields of an old manorial hunting park in Nottinghamshire, and though they had worked in the lord’s fields, they also had time to work their own individual plots for their own needs. As it turned out though, the London partners refused to grant the concessions and disaster in the New World ensued.

Per William Bradford’s account, “… that the taking away of property and bringing community would make them happy and flourishing … For this community was found to breed much confusion and discontent and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. For the younger men, that were most able and fit for labour and service, did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children without any recompense. The strong … had no more in division of victuals and clothes than he that was weak and not able to do a quarter the other could; this was thought injustice … Upon … all being to have alike and all to do alike, they thought … one as good as another, and so … did … work diminish.” In other words, removing the profit motive caused everyone to work less. If it hadn’t been for the Indians who helped show the settlers how to plant crops native to New England, and how to fish, catch eels, and harvest oysters—not to mention another ship that arrived from England in 1621 just in the nick of time—the settlers would have all perished.

The harvests of 1621 and 1622 were also dismal due to low production, so finally in 1623 Governor Bradford established a system of privately-controlled plots of land, which allowed each family or individual to work them and keep the proceeds. In other words, he abandoned the communal arrangement and established real property rights, and the results were spectacular.

From Bradford again: “So they began to think how they might raise as much corn as they could, and obtain a better crop than they had done, that they might not still thus languish in misery … This had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better content. The women now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn; which before would allege weakness and inability; whom to have compelled would have been thought great tyranny and oppression.” By the harvest of 1623, “the starving time” became the bountiful occasion we now celebrate as Thanksgiving. Furthermore, by 1624, so much food was produced that the colonists were now able to sell and export corn.

Was this success a coincidence? A stroke of luck? A divine message from above? I think not. The private property system that Bradford established in Plymouth was in sync with human nature and the natural instinct to take care of one’s needs and one’s family’s needs first before those of strangers. Which is not to say that charity or compassion is not part of human nature, but “starving time” does not advance generosity. Only independence and self-reliance, which come from the freedom to determine one’s goals and priorities, foster true goodwill towards others.

One final thought on the survival lesson of Thanksgiving. As poorly as the communal system in place until 1623 turned out, consider that it was a (mostly) voluntary arrangement, since each adult man and woman chose to sign on with the trip to the New World even though the two concessions regarding private property were rejected. Even voluntarily willing to take a chance on a perilous journey to a strange land—and still many starved to death. Can you imagine the guaranteed fiasco had the system been forced on them? You only need to look at the outcome when forced giving, production, and redistribution are mandated by government. History is filled with examples, but China’s Great Leap Forward is the best illustration of what happens when property rights are trampled on: at least 30 million people starved to death from 1958 to 1962. With so many voices raised these days in favor of forced collectivism, perhaps they should learn the real lesson of Thanksgiving.


References:

Carson, Kevin. (2013, November 27). No, Stossel. The Pilgrims Were Starved by a Corporation, Not by Communism. Retrieved from c4ss.org/content/22792

Ceeley, Craig. (2003, November 27). From ‘Starving Time’ to Cornucopia: The American Thanksgiving. Retrieved from www.theatlasphere.com/columns/031127_ceely_thanksgiving.php

Franc, Michael. (2005, November 22). Pilgrims Beat ‘Communism’ With Free Market. www.heritage.org/markets-and-finance/commentary/pilgrims-beat-communism-free-market

Mayberry, Richard J. (2014, November 27). The Great Thanksgiving Hoax. Retrieved from mises.org/library/great-thanksgiving-hoax-1

Miniter, Frank. (2016, November 23). Did Capitalism Really Save The Pilgrims—And Give Them A Thanksgiving To Remember? Retrieved from www.forbes.com/sites/frankminiter/2016/11/23/did-capitalism-really-save-the-pilgrims-and-give-them-a-thanksgiving-to-remember/#44147f264ffb

Pease, Harold. (2018, November 15). The Mayflower Compact Facilitated Pilgrim Starvation. Retrieved from suindependent.com/mayflower-compact-pilgrim-starvation/

Non-Public BOS Session Scheduled (September 14, 2020)

By Muriel Bristol | September 12, 2020

The Milton Board of Selectmen (BOS) have posted their agenda for a BOS meeting to be held Monday, September 14.

The BOS meeting is scheduled to begin with a Non-Public session beginning at 6:00 PM. That session’s agenda has one item classed as 91-A3 II (c).

(c) Matters which, if discussed in public, would likely affect adversely the reputation of any person, other than a member of the public body itself, unless such person requests an open meeting. This exemption shall extend to any application for assistance or tax abatement or waiver of a fee, fine, or other levy, if based on inability to pay or poverty of the applicant.

The Public portion of the agenda has Old Business, New Business, Other Business, and some housekeeping items.


Under New Business are scheduled two items: 1) Presentation by Conservation Commission – Teneriffe Mountain Project and Casey Road Project, and 2) Possible Interest in Purchase of Town-owned, Tax Deeded Property.

Presentation by Conservation Commission – Teneriffe Mountain Project and Casey Road Project.

Possible Interest in Purchase of Town-owned, Tax Deeded Property. One imagines that there is an inverse relationship between possible interest and pre-conditions imposed by the BOS.

Under Old Business is scheduled one item: 1) Employee Wage Plan.

Employee Wage Plan. Some departments at least are paid already far in excess of the wages of the average taxpayer that pays them. It might be that the “plan” will be a moratorium that allows that gap to close a bit. (Warning: it could be dangerous to hold one’s breath while waiting for this eventuality).

Under Other Business there are no scheduled agenda items.


There will be the approval of prior minutes (from the quasi-Public session of September 2, 2020); Public Comments; an expenditure report; administrator comments, and BOS comments.


Mr. S.D. Plissken contributed to this article.


References:

State of New Hampshire. (2016, June 21). RSA Chapter 91-A. Access to Governmental Records and Meetings. Retrieved from www.gencourt.state.nh.us/rsa/html/VI/91-A/91-A-3.htm

Town of Milton. (2020, September 11). BOS Meeting Agenda, September 14, 2020. Retrieved from www.miltonnh-us.com/sites/g/files/vyhlif916/f/events/09-14-2020bos_agenda.pdf

Youtube. (1965). Cone of Silence. Retrieved from www.youtube.com/watch?v=g1eUIK9CihA&feature=youtu.be&t=19

In Search of the Northwest Budget

By S.D. Plissken | September 11, 2020

In 1845 Sir John Franklin, with two ships and 129 men, went in search of the fabled “Northwest Passage” between Baffin Bay and the Pacific Ocean. He and his men disappeared into the Canadian Arctic and were never seen again.

We know now that their ships became entrapped in the ice of the Canadian Arctic over a series of unusually cold winters. Researchers theorize that, apart from the appalling and deadly Arctic conditions, the expedition’s food and water supplies were contaminated with poisonous lead solder. That would have both sickened them and impaired their cognitive function. Lord Franklin died. Part of the crew descended into cannibalism.

Survivors tried to escape overland. They loaded a heavy ship’s boat with a lot of useless paraphernalia, including a writing desk, silk handkerchiefs, scented soap, sponges, slippers, hair combs, and many books. That seemed to them to be a good idea. It can only be supposed that these unfortunates were half-crazed due to lead poisoning. One by one they died while trying to drag this useless burden across the Canadian tundra towards settlements lying hundreds of frozen miles to their south.

The Milton Board of Selectmen (BOS) is seeking a budgetary passage through the economic recession triggered by the Covid-19 shutdown. What do they propose that we drag across this hostile environment to a sustainable place?

Most of the departmental presentations so far have led off with pay raises. Yes, we’ll need them, make sure that pay raises get stowed in the boat. That would be only prudential management. They are essential.

Put them under the writing desk, between the silk handkerchiefs, slippers, scented soap, and books.

References:

Dover, Connie. (2015, August 22). Lord Franklin. Retrieved from www.youtube.com/watch?v=PIP5CaRky6s

Wikipedia. (2020, September 11). Franklin’s Lost Expedition. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franklin%27s_lost_expedition

Public BOS Session Scheduled (August 17, 2020)

By Muriel Bristol | August 17, 2020

The Milton Board of Selectmen (BOS) have posted their agenda for a BOS Workshop meeting to be held Monday, August 17.

The BOS Workshop meeting is scheduled to begin with a quasi-Public session beginning at 5:30 PM.

Although this meeting is open to the public, everyone who attends must fill out a contact form and wear a face mask. Anyone refusing to do so will not be allowed entry. Furthermore, with social distancing, the capacity of the meeting room is approximately 14 people. If more than 14 people arrive, then the meeting will have to immediately be adjourned.


The BOS will hear budget proposals from three departments: Recreation Department (Recreation Director Karen Brown); Fire Department Budget Proposal (Fire Chief Nick Marique); Department of Public Works Budget Proposal (DPW Director Patrick Smith).


Mr. S.D. Plissken contributed to this article.


References:

Town of Milton. (2020, August 17). BOS Meeting Agenda, August 17, 2020. Retrieved from www.miltonnh-us.com/sites/g/files/vyhlif916/f/events/aaa_08-17-2020_bosagenda_amended.pdf

Not Quite There, Yet

By S.D. Plissken | August 10, 2020

There was to have been a Board of Selectmen (BOS) Workshop meeting this evening at 6:00 PM. The BOS would have heard the next budget proposals from the Department of Public Works (DPW) and the Recreation Department.

The meeting has been cancelled and the budget presentations rescheduled for the regular BOS meeting of Monday, August 17.

The Budget Committee sent previously a letter outlining its view that the overall budget should come in at $1,000 less than the Default Budget, as being the only way that an actual budget would ever actually be passed. Its chairman, Mr. Williams, read it out to the BOS at their last meeting.

The BOS heard previously budget proposals from the Milton Mills Free Public Library (MMFPL) and the Police Department. The MMFPL’s budget went over its 2% guidance. Chairman Rawson expressed his disappointment. It would not be impossible to arrange, but their overage would have to come out of some other department’s budget.

The DPW wants double this year, some $500,000, to make up for having their warrant item rejected last March. Again, this would not be impossible, provided their overage came from the budget of some other department or departments.

Some define Economics as the science of best allocating scarce resources. (Some call it the “Dismal Science”). Now the Town government has never felt the need to allocate our scarce dollars in any measured or scientific way. Well, maybe in the distant past, but not for a long time now. It has been more recently in the habit of taking with both hands, both in good times and in bad.

Even now, some in Town government wish to consult Town-hired lawyers to find some way to evade the Tax Cap, which is likely to cramp their style. The style to which they have become accustomed. They have tended to do what they like, as opposed to what we can afford. Does anyone suppose that taxpayers are likely to smile on additional legal expenses, to be added to their current burden, and incurred primarily to thwart their expressed will?

I would predict instead a revised tax cap, an “improved” one with a lower ceiling, maybe 1%.

Meanwhile, the School Board, who is also on a default budget, and whose salary increase warrant article got rejected some months ago, is not quite there with us either. It is to hold a deliberative session at the Nute High and Middle School cafeteria tomorrow, Tuesday, August 11, at 6:00 PM. Its sole object is to put their Collective Bargain Agreement (CBA) warrant article back on a September 8 ballot.

The negotiated increases are substantial. They have to make up time for having been rejected before. One supposes they intend to repeat this exercise until we get it “right.” Because “no,” means “ask me again”?

Is anyone pixilated enough to suppose that taxpayers will have more money during this economic lockdown than they did when they kept their hands in their pockets last March? Very unlikely.

Yes, yes, one might expect turnout to be lower in a primary then it would be at the regular election. Wait, you don’t think that was a part of their calculation, do you? To pack a smaller venue? No, that would be sort of cynical and manipulative.

Do you suppose they know how many taxpayers asked also for a School tax cap? As I understand it, their name is “legion,” and such a measure is even now being studied. But it could never pass, could it? Well, yes, it very well could, if the School Board takes no account of the taxpayers’ scarce resources.

Taken all in all, one might say that many of our Town officials are not quite there with us yet.

References:

Town of Milton. (2020, August 7). BOS Workshop Meeting Agenda, August 10, 2020. Retrieved from www.miltonnh-us.com/sites/g/files/vyhlif916/f/events/08-10-2020_bosagenda.pdf

Non-Public BOS Session Scheduled (August 3, 2020)

By Muriel Bristol | August 2, 2020

The Milton Board of Selectmen (BOS) have posted their agenda for a BOS meeting to be held Monday, August 3.

The BOS meeting is scheduled to begin with a Public session beginning at 5:30 PM. There will be a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance before the BOS disappears into a Non-Public session. That session’s agenda has one item classed as 91-A3 II (a) and one item classed as 91-A3 II (c).

(a) The dismissal, promotion, or compensation of any public employee or the disciplining of such employee, or the investigation of any charges against him or her, unless the employee affected (1) has a right to a meeting and (2) requests that the meeting be open, in which case the request shall be granted.

The last time this particular code was invoked the Non-Public session was able to begin only when Chief Krauss arrived. And he will evidently be on hand on this occasion too, at least later, in order to present the Police Department budget in the public session.

(c) Matters which, if discussed in public, would likely affect adversely the reputation of any person, other than a member of the public body itself, unless such person requests an open meeting. This exemption shall extend to any application for assistance or tax abatement or waiver of a fee, fine, or other levy, if based on inability to pay or poverty of the applicant.

This will be another secret confab likely affecting adversely someone’s reputation, someone who did not request an open meeting, assuming that the someone in question even knew they were to be discussed or that they had the option to request an open meeting.


Due to their concerns regarding Covid-19, seating will be limited to allow spacing. (This limitation would be unnecessary if the meeting were held at the Nute High School gym). Should a larger number of attendees appear, the meeting will be adjourned. The session may be watched remotely through the usual YouTube means or by teleconference. The links are in their original agenda, for which there is a link in the References below.

From the Town website we learn that at some point the BOS designated at some point Chairman Andrew Rawson as its ex-officio representative to the Local Government Efficiency Task Force; Vice-Chairman Matt Morrill as its ex-officio representative to the Local Government Efficiency Task Force, and the Planning Board; and Selectwoman Claudine Burnham as its ex-officio representative to the Budget Committee. Former Chairwoman Erin Hutchings is still designated as the ex-officio representative to the Milton Economic Development Committee. There would seem to be some omissions relative to prior years.

The quasi-Public portion of the agenda has Old Business, New Business, Other Business, and some housekeeping items.


Under Old Business are scheduled five items: 1) Update Regarding Covid-19 (Novel Coronavirus) Operational Activities / Plans; 2) Ordinance Updates Status (Currently Under Final Review); 3) Status of Following Tax Deeded Structures: 20 Dawson, 79 Charles and 565 White Mountain Highway (No Change from Previous Meeting); 4) Adoption of By-Laws for Local Government Efficiency Task Force; and 5) Schoolhouse Roof Repair.

Update Regarding Covid-19 (Novel Coronavirus) Operational Activities / Plans. Anyone with their ear to the ground in Milton will have heard rumblings regarding waiting outside the Emma Ramsey Center in the hot sun to conduct bureaucracy there. At the last BOS meeting, a system of numbers, like that employed in bakeries, was put in place. Those waiting might wait in their automobiles in the parking lot or some other shadier spot. While certainly better than before, the rumblings we hear want better solutions.

Ordinance Updates Status (Currently Under Final Review). Chief Krauss sought a review and revision of the Town’s ordinances. Keep an eye this one. Let us hope they are cleaning out old ones, rather than adding a bunch of new ones. But fear not, ordinances can be repealed if necessary, even despite the wishes of chiefs and selectmen.

Status of Following Tax Deeded Structures: 20 Dawson, 79 Charles and 565 White Mountain Highway (No Change from Previous Meeting). These are troubled properties, long overdue to make their appearance at an upcoming auction.

Adoption of By-Laws for Local Government Efficiency Task Force. Because not having them might be inefficient?

Schoolhouse Roof Repair. Prior discussions included the warning that this should be done before winter.


Under New Business are scheduled four agenda items: 1) Dog Licensing (Claudine Burnham); 2) Explanation of Sewer Treatment Plant Issues and Process for Consultant Presentations / Interviews on August 4th with the Select Board (Dale Sprague); 3) 2021 Budget Presentations: a) Library – Betsy Baker, and b) Police Department – Police Chief Richard Krauss; and 4) Proposed Employee Travel Policy – Covid-19.

Dog Licensing (Claudine Burnham). This appeared last time as Warrants for Dog Licenses.

Explanation of Sewer Treatment Plant Issues and Process for Consultant Presentations / Interviews on August 4th with the Select Board (Dale Sprague). The last few issues of which we were aware involved something like a skin-diver on one occasion and a break in a water main on another.

2021 Budget Presentations: a) Library – Betsy Baker, and b) Police Department – Police Chief Richard Krauss. Assuming the method of last year is to be followed again, this would be the first in a series of these departmental budget presentations before both the BOS and the Budget Committee at the same time.

Proposed Employee Travel Policy – Covid-19. Perhaps travel by Town employees to Wuhan – or any of the subsequent urban loci – will be restricted. Or perhaps those traveling to such places will be quarantined upon their return. God only knows, we can only guess. Tune in to find out.


There will be the approval of prior minutes (from the quasi-Public session of July 20, 2020, the non-Public session of July 20, 2020); an expenditure report, as of July 31, administrator comments, BOS comments, and Other Business.


Under Other Business there are no scheduled agenda items.


Mr. S.D. Plissken contributed to this article.


References:

State of New Hampshire. (2016, June 21). RSA Chapter 91-A. Access to Governmental Records and Meetings. Retrieved from www.gencourt.state.nh.us/rsa/html/VI/91-A/91-A-3.htm

Town of Milton. (2020, August 1). BOS Meeting Agenda, August 3, 2020. Retrieved from www.miltonnh-us.com/sites/g/files/vyhlif916/f/agendas/a_08-03-2020_bosagenda.pdf

Youtube. (1965). Cone of Silence. Retrieved from www.youtube.com/watch?v=g1eUIK9CihA&feature=youtu.be&t=19