The current placement of the first two warrant articles to be voted on at Town Meeting is incorrect and not allowed by law, Town Moderator Dan Barnard confirmed to me yesterday.
These are the warrant articles in question, in the order currently listed in the 2018 Tuftonboro Town Report:
Article 03: To see if the Town will vote to extend the purposes of the previously established Library Capital Reserve Fund to include expansion and renovation of the existing library building. This Capital Reserve Fund was established by vote at Town Meeting in March, 2010 as Article 12 on the Town Warrant “for the purpose of building a new library.” Furthermore to name the Board of Selectmen as agents to expend from the fund.
(Two-Thirds (2/3) vote required)
(Recommended by the Board of Selectmen 3-0)
Article 04: To see if the Town will vote to raise and appropriate the sum of One Million, Nine Hundred Twenty Thousand Dollars ($1,920,000.00) to renovate and expand the current Library and to authorize the issuance of not more than One Million Ninety Four Thousand Dollars ($1,094,000.00) of bonds or notes in accordance with the provisions of the Municipal Finance Act (RSA Chapter 33); to authorize the selectmen to issue and negotiate such bonds and notes and to determine the rate of interest thereon and the maturity and other terms thereof. Furthermore, to authorize the withdrawal of Four Hundred Sixteen Thousand Dollars ($416,000.00) from the existing Library Capital Reserve Fund and Four Hundred Ten Thousand Dollars ($410,000.00) from the Library Capital Donations Fund. The first payment on the bond or note will not be made until year 2019.
(Two-Thirds (2/3) ballot vote required per RSA 33:8-a)
(Recommended by the Board of Selectmen 2-0-1 and the Budget Committee 6-1)
A quick note on the numbers of the articles: Town Meeting on Wednesday, March 14, at 7:30PM begins with article #3. Article #1 is to choose elected officials and article #2 is to changing a zoning ordinance. Those will be voted on by ballot on the prior day, March 13, at the Town House.
The selectmen are responsible for preparing the articles, but did not follow RSA 33:8-a:II, which states:
All articles appearing in the warrant which propose a bond or note issue exceeding $100,000 shall appear in consecutive numerical order and shall be acted upon prior to other business except the election of officers, action on the adoption, revision, or amendment of a municipal charter, and zoning matters or as otherwise determined by the voters at the meeting. Polls shall remain open and ballots shall be accepted by the moderator on each such article, for a period of not less than one hour following the completion of discussion on each respective article. A separate ballot box shall be provided for each bond article to be voted upon pursuant to this section.
The key phrase, which I bolded: “…shall be acted upon prior to other business.”
Michelle Clark of the New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration advised Diane Falcey, the selectmen’s administrative assistant, that the library-addition warrant article had to be moved to the first position in accordance with law, on January 25:
Diane then reported that she had moved the library-addition article “to 1st money article” and that “[warrant article] is now 03” (from 04).
And yet, the library-addition article was subsequently moved back to #4.
The selectmen did not follow the statute and ignored advice from the state department of revenue.
The reason the selectmen (and the library trustees) wanted the library-addition article to be voted on after the change-of-purpose article, as I understand it, is that the library-addition article is dependent on the roughly $400,000 in the capital reserve fund.
Just to be very clear: I am not alleging that the articles are in the wrong order — I am stating a fact, which has been confirmed by Dan yesterday and by Michelle Clark on January 25.