Wolfeboro Town Hall Article Did Not Count Pledges As Real Money

In response to my post, Approximately $142,000 Missing From Library Capital Donations Fund, Gordon Hunt, chairman of the library trustees, wrote, in a comment on Facebook:

The fund raising efforts for the Library expansion were modeled on Wolfeboro’s Town Hall renovation. Over $736,000.00 was pledged in advance of the vote for that project. Every penny pledged was redeemed in a timely manner with NO DEFAULTS. I should think those people who have stepped up in the same manner for Tuftonboro’s Library will act in the same manner. I feel you are demeaning these folks with a veiled insinuating, [sic] that they will not honor their commitment.

Note that Gordon does not dispute that the $142,000.00 in pledged money is not in the Library Capital Donations Fund.

His reference to “every penny pledged” to the Wolfeboro Town Hall renovation being “redeemed in a timely manner with NO DEFAULTS” is irrelevant. Whether or not anyone reneged on their pledge in Wolfeboro has no bearing on the outcome here in Tuftonboro.  Something that happened in a different town on a different project three or four years ago is not useful for predicting what might happen here in Tuftonboro in the coming year or two.

Nevertheless, let’s take a look at the Wolfeboro Town Hall Renovation warrant article from 2014 (emphasis in original):

ARTICLE 7: Reduced-Scope Renovations of Wolfeboro Town Hall

To see whether the Town will vote to raise and appropriate the sum of Four Million dollars ($4,000,000) to be funded as follows: bond issue not to exceed Three Million Eight Hundred Eighty-Eight Thousand Six Hundred dollars ($3,888,600) (to be reduced by pledged donations currently estimated at Seven Hundred Fifty Thousand dollars [$750,000] generated by The Friends of Wolfeboro Town Hall, Inc.), and transfer the balance from the Town Office Facility Capital Reserve Fund (currently estimated at $111,440); for the purpose of renovating the Wolfeboro Town Hall building, to include both the exterior and interior of the building to make it completely handicapped accessible and both building and fire code compliant, but excluding the parking lot and landscaping improvements, replacement windows, clock faces, and other improvements previously funded and completed. This also includes the costs for the architect’s services, construction manager services, and contingencies. Further, to authorize the issuance of not more than three million eight hundred eighty-eight thousand six hundred dollars ($3,888,600) of bonds or notes for this purpose in accordance with RSA Chapter 33, Municipal Finance Act, such sum to be reduced by any federal, state, or private funds made available therefor, (including the aforementioned pledged donations), and to authorize the Board of Selectmen to issue and negotiate such bonds or notes and to determine the rate of interest, maturity and other terms for this purpose, and further to raise and appropriate the sum of Eleven Thousand Three Hundred dollars ($11,300) for the payment of interest on any notes issued in anticipation of such bonds that is payable in 2014; and further to authorize the Selectmen to transfer the balance of the Capital Reserve Fund for Town Office Facility, which currently has a balance of One Hundred Eleven Thousand Four Hundred Forty dollars ($111,440), for this purpose and to accept the gift of pledged donations currently estimated at $750,000 generated by The Friends of the Wolfeboro Town Hall, Inc., which will be used to offset the cost of the project and reduce the amount needing to be bonded.
Estimated Tax Rate Impact: 2014-$0.006; 2015-$0.150 (Recommended by Board of Selectmen by a vote of 3-2) (Recommended by Budget Committee by a vote of 7-2) (3/5 vote is required)

The Wolfeboro Town Hall warrant article from 2014 is significantly different than the warrant article for the library addition this year in Tuftonboro.

The Wolfeboro Town Hall article took out a larger loan (in proportion to the cost of the project)  that would later be “reduced by any federal, state, or private funds made available” afterward.

The Tuftonboro Library-Addition article treats the pledged money as real money already in hand, and therefore seeks a smaller loan (in proportion to the cost of the project).

The Tuftonboro model is flawed. Pledged money, no matter the intentions of the good people making the pledges, is not real money. Real money has already been donated and is currently in the Library Capital Donations Fund.

Write-In Raymond “Skip” Hurt for Library Trustee

I will be writing in Raymond “Skip” Hurt for Library Trustee instead of voting for Gordon Hunt, who is running unopposed for re-election, and I encourage both those who support a library addition and those who do not to also write-in his name.

Skip brought a proposal to the library trustees last spring that would have cost about $800,000 less than what the library trustees have brought to Town Meeting this year. His plan would not have required a 2/3 majority vote because it would not have required the issuance of a bond or note in excess of $100,000 (the statutory threshold). In his plan, construction could have been completed in stages using funds already available.

Skip has said he’ll be voting for the library addition next week, and I will be voting against it. So you might wonder why I’m going to write his name in.

I appreciate that Skip tried to save the town over a million dollars (when you take interest into account the $1.92 million price tag on the warrant article is not accurate). I like that Skip speaks his mind, even when I disagree with him. He’s an honest man, in my estimation. He’s overseen construction projects. He knows what he’s talking about in that regard.

He also loves reading books. I mentioned in my post, Of Books and Libraries, that I am currently reading Into Thin Air, by Jonathan Krakauer. Skip gave me that book.

Skip was on the library building advisory committee several years ago. He’s been on the budget committee as well. It’s a  long shot that we could get him on the library trustees board as a write-in, but let’s try anyway.




What Does “Overspending” Mean?

At Monday’s board of selectmen’s meeting, Gordon Hunt, a member of the budget committee, and the selectmen called into question something that Chris Sawyer wrote in the Granite State News.

Chris, who is running for budget committee, stated in response to a candidate questionnaire from the paper:

This past year the selectmen took $350,000 out of the undesignated fund balance to offset overspending.

Gordon, quoting from the minutes for the selectmen’s November 6, 2017, meeting, said, “the selectmen took $350,000 from the unexpended fund balance to reduce taxes for the upcoming year.“¹

He then quoted Chris’s candidate profile from the paper and asked, “Do I interpret that as being a mistake on the part of someone?”²

Selectman Chip Albee concurred, saying it was a “mistake on whoever-said-that’s part.” Bill Marcussen chimed in, “yup.”

But why would the tax rate need to be reduced in the upcoming year?

Because spending is up. Every year the operating budget increases, in recent years by 5-10%. This year the proposed budget is increasing spending by 4%, although the amount to be raised by taxes is increasing by almost 12%.

Gordon and Bill stated in yesterday’s meeting that by law the selectmen cannot spend more than the total budget amount, therefore they cannot “overspend.” This is a word game. Chris did not write that the selectmen had overspent the budget. She stated they used the $350,000 (raised from taxes in previous years) “to offset overspending.”

Many people in town believe that we spend too much money, that we overspend. Many others in town disagree and would like to spend even more.

This is a difference of opinion. 

We have an election next week on Tuesday, March 13.

If you would like independent thinkers who won’t automatically vote for every spending increase proposed by the selectmen, then please vote for Chris and Barry Ennis.

1. The terms “unexpended,” “unassigned,” and “undesignated” are all used interchangeably to describe funds that are left over in town’s bank account. The fund balance accumulates when money that is appropriated for a given year is not expended. For instance, if a department has a budget of $100,000 for the year but spends $95,000. In that case, $5,000 is left over in the fund balance.

2. In keeping with an obsession with secrecy that pervades in town, Gordon did not use Chris’s name even though her statement was published publicly in the paper and can be read by anyone.

$16,450 to Develop Conceptual Design for Library Renovation

The selectmen voted unanimously last Friday, May 19, to expend $16,450 from the Library Capital Reserve Fund, for a conceptual design for renovating the current library building, following a presentation by Skip Hurt.

Selectman Chip Albee said that he didn’t think any proposal for a library would be ready for Town Meeting 2018. “To be honest, I don’t see it going on the warrant next year,” he said. “[The library trustees] haven’t gotten to the position where they have consensus on their board about what the want to build. So until that happens, [the board of selectmen] can’t get involved. And until we’re involved, and they’re involved, and we all agree, we can’t get the town involved,” meaning a warrant article at Town Meeting, “so there’s more stuff that’s got to go down before.

Approximately $70,000 was spent on a failed 2015 plan to build a new library across the street from the current library. The plan required a 2/3 vote at Town Meeting because it required a loan due to its projected cost of more than $2.3 million.

Video courtesy of Joe Kowalski.

Watch Skip Hurt’s library renovation presentation to the library trustees here and his presentation to the trustees, selectmen, and public here. The trustees also discussed Skip’s presentation here.

Library Trustees’ Meeting May 11, 2017

The board of trustees met May 11, 2017, for their regular monthly meeting. The main topic of discussion was Skip Hurt’s proposal to expand the current library rather than construct a completely new building.
0:00:00 Call to order / pledge
0:00:25 Public input (none)
0:00:50 Approval of April Minutes
0:02:10 Treasurer’s report
0:03:05 Librarian’s report
transferring from vhs to dvd: interviews from town’s bicentennial in 1995
Tuftonboro central school student art Friday
Plant sale in June during town-wide yard sale. Also $10/bag book sale.
0:10:55 Discussion of Skip Hurt’s proposal to renovate/expand current building
Paul: If there’s potential for savings we need to pursue this
0:13:30 Gordon: Christie and I spoke and we have concerns about interior layout. Don’t believe bathrooms are currently up to code. Sceptic system is 47 years old. central air.
0:17:00 Gordon: In my heart of hearts I don’t want to do something just to do something. I want to do it right. I would under no circumstances go ahead without voter approval.
0:18:25 Gordon: mistake to go forward without town approval firm town funding. untenable.
0:19:03 Mary Ann: Agree. Can’t go forward without town approval.
0:20:30 Mary Ann: Applaud Skip. Exciting for me when he came in. Don’t want to spend money here when we already spent money on the other side of the road. Concerned about health issues renovating building.
0:23:35 Paul: what I like about Skip’s plan is it breaks the connection between us and the police building.
0:24:50 Gordon spoke with Anthony from SMP to get some cost estimates for developing a scope of work
0:32:45 Gordon: we should have another joint meeting with selectmen
0:37:30 Gordon: what are we going to do if we don’t do anything on this and we get to Town Meeting and there are two library articles?
0:37:45 Paul: and what do you say when someone gets up and say “you wouldn’t even spend a nominal amount of money to save us $1 Million?”
0:40:45 Public input
0:41:00 Joan Theve
0:43:45 Bob Theve
0:45:50 Steve Brinser
0:46:25 Carla Lootens
0:46:50 Terry
0:49:45 Steve Brinser
0:50:15 Ruth
0:55:00 Max
0:56:00 Steve Brinser
0:57:20 More New Business: Adoption of Town Harassment Policy
0:58:20 Capital Campaign Committee Activity
0:59:25 NH Library Trustees Conference
1:00:10 NEXT MEETING: June 8
1:00:45 Motion to Adjourn