CHAOS! Selectmen Fail to Hold Public Hearing; Library Warrant Article Null and Void

“We have some problems,” Chairman Gordon Hunt told his fellow library trustees this morning. “The selectmen did not hold a special public hearing for the warrant article.”

The library-addition warrant article is invalid and will not be legally binding if voted on at Town Meeting because the selectmen have failed to hold a public bond hearing as required by statute.

Continue readingCHAOS! Selectmen Fail to Hold Public Hearing; Library Warrant Article Null and Void”

Approximately $142,000 Missing From Library Capital Donations Fund

The library-addition warrant article that will be presented at Town Meeting next week would “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.”

However, Library Trustee Gordon Hunt admitted at the budget committee’s public hearing on February 13 that the Library Capital Donations Fund does not hold $410,000, but instead is short of that by approximately $142,000.

Chris Sawyer: The amount of money that the library’s [contributing], from their donation fund, is that money actually in the donation fund right now?

Gordon Hunt: No. Not all of it. Approximately, at this time, about $140,000 in pledges — Sorry, Christie?

Christie Sarles, Librarian: Just got another pledge for $2,000 this afternoon.

Chris Sawyer: And how do you know those pledges are going to actually come to fruition?

Christie Sarles: Signed pledges are contracts. Signed pledges are legal contracts.

Chris Sawyer: They’re not tendered for a bank. You can’t take it to a bank and get money for it.

Gordon Hunt: Well, let’s put it this way — when the town of Wolfeboro did their town hall, it had pledges of considerably larger amounts than these. They had 100% participation in the pledges. I think it’s called an “act of faith.” Someone says they’re going to do something, they generally do it. And that’s what we’re based upon it.

Chris Sawyer: And that’s fine, it’s just, if someone didn’t know that that money is in the form of pledges, maybe that should be spelled out to the public.

Gordon Hunt: We spelled it out any number of times. We spell it out at our public meetings, we will be spelling it out at the Town Meeting, as well.

Chris Sawyer: Oh, you will? Oh, good.

Gordon Hunt: And keep in mind, too, that $410,000 [in the capital donations fund], that we’re talking about right now, is a moving target. Because our fundraising is ongoing. We hope to have considerably more money by then, being Town Meeting.

Contrary to what Christie said, pledges are not signed contracts. They’re promises, nothing more. That does not mean that every single pledge will not be fulfilled. I’m sure they all will be fulfilled.

However, for budgetary purposes, we cannot treat pledges as money in hand.

There is a warrant article being presented to the Wolfeboro Town Meeting to renovate and expand the Wolfeboro Public Library. That warrant article is worded significantly differently then the warrant article here in Tuftonboro.

Here is the warrant article (emphasis in original) in Wolfeboro:

Article 9: Library Renovation and Expansion Project

To see if the Town will vote to raise and appropriate the sum of Five Million dollars ($5,000,000) to be funded as follows: bond issue not to exceed Four Million Eight Hundred Fifty Five Thousand dollars ($4,855,000), said bond amount to be reduced by donations and pledged donations currently estimated at One Million Three Hundred Thousand dollars ($1,300,000) generated by the Wolfeboro Public Library Foundation, and to authorize the Selectmen to transfer the balance of the Library Reserve Fund currently estimated at Twenty Two Thousand dollars ($22,000) and the balance from the Wolfeboro Public Library’s Building Fund currently estimated at One Hundred Twenty Three Thousand dollars ($123,000), for the purpose of renovating and expanding the Wolfeboro Public Library building, to include both the interior and exterior of the building, parking lot and other site improvement, and to include the cost for architect services, engineering services, construction manager services and contingencies. Further, to authorize the issuance of not more than Four Million Eight Hundred Fifty Five Thousand dollars ($4,885,000) of bonds or notes for this purpose in accordance with the Municipal Finance Act, RSA Chapter 33, such sum to be reduced by any federal, state, or private funds made available therefor (including the aforementioned donations and pledged donations), and to authorize the Board of Selectmen to negotiate and issue such bonds or notes and to determine the rate of interest, maturity and other terms for this purpose. Further to authorize the Selectmen to accept the gift of donations and pledged donations currently estimated at One Million Three Hundred Thousand dollars ($1,300,000) generated by the Wolfeboro Public Library Foundation to be used to offset the costs of the project and to reduce the amount needed to be bonded.

Estimated Tax Rate Impact: 2018-$0.00, 2019-$0.005, 2020-$0.160 per $1,000 of Assessed Valuation

(Recommended by the Board of Selectmen by a vote of 5-0)

(Recommended by the Budget Committee by a vote of 5-0)

3/5 majority vote required

As you can see the Wolfeboro library article is much more specific than the Tuftonboro library article:

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)

The Library Capital Donations Fund does not have $410,000 in it, by Gordon’s own admission. Therefore the warrant article is misleading.

The article should be phrased differently, such as:

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 Two Hundred Thirty Six Thousand Dollars ($1,236,000) of bonds or notes in accordance with the provisions of the Municipal Finance Act (RSA Chapter 33), said bond or note amount to be reduced by donations and pledged donations currently estimated at One Hundred Forty Two Thousand dollars ($142,000.00); 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 Two Hundred Sixty Eight Thousand Dollars ($268,000.00) from the Library Capital Donations Fund, as well as authorize the selectmen to accept the gift of donations and pledged donations currently estimated at One Hundred Forty Two Thousand dollars ($142,000.00), generated by the Friends of the Tuftonboro Free Library or the Library Fundraising Committee,¹ to be used to offset the costs of the project and to reduce the amount needed to be taken in a bond or note. The first payment on the bond or note will not be made until year 2019.

The article should be amended at Town Meeting.


  1. I forget what exactly the fundraising committee is called, but its mandate is to raise funds.

Selectmen, Moderator to Meet Friday to Discuss Warrant

The selectmen have announced a meeting with Moderator Dan Barnard on Friday, March 9, at 2PM. The topic will be the Town Warrant (i.e., the warrant articles to be voted on at Town Meeting next week).

Earlier today I posted that the order of the warrant articles as currently presented in the town report does not comply with state law.

Library Statistics Don’t Show Need for Library Addition

I believe every community needs a library. Tuftonboro has a good library, but it could be better. I don’t think it is keeping up as well as it could with what is happening in the world.

Peak book circulation at the library occurred in 2009, at 23,981, while book circulation for 2017 was at 18,880; DVD and CD circulation peaked at 18,929 in 2011 and was down to 11,403 in 2017.

Meanwhile, in spite of the declines, the total number of items in the library collection has gone up from 29,258 in 2009 to 32,661 in 2017. In the same time frame, database/Internet “circulation” went from 602 to 7,101, and that is reflected in the circulation statistics. If you set aside the Internet usage, the current circulation is down by more than 10,000 items since 2009. That is a huge difference! (These statistics are not my creation, they were compiled by the library.)

The last time we discussed building a new library, at Town Meeting in 2015, the library staff expressed concern that there was no space for a break-room for staff so they could have private time away from the public. A month or two later, it was reported that they did create space for a break area by reducing the collection by about 700 items. However, by the end of the year the collection had increased by almost 600 items. Why are we accumulating more books when book circulation is declining?

Where is the future need for these items going to come from? There is a regional and even statewide decline in young people. The school-district population has steadily declined for about 10 years. In 2005, there were 2,889 students in the district; in 2017, it was 2,326. In 2005, there were 16 tuitioned students attending our schools, and in 2017, we had 142. Tuftonboro School has gone from 191 students in 2005 to 117 in 2017—another huge difference.

Meeting-room usage at the library has been increasing. Statistics show that average attendance for meetings and programs has ranged from a low of 10 in 2016 to a high of nearly 17 in 2014; in 2017, an average of 12 people attended. The present meeting room seats 45 people with room for a couple of tables to be set up. (The room also has full rows of books covering 2 walls plus some rolling racks of books plus extra chairs.) I have heard that the Polar Express, which is held in December, has high attendance and more seating is needed. Do we really need to build a function room to seat 85 people for one or two or even three events? The Polar Express could be held at the school gymnasium or the school cafeteria or at one of at least five other available places in town (Melvin Church, Willing Workers Hall, Tuftonboro Corner Church, Town House, Todaro Center).

Technology is the future. I don’t know how anyone can fail to see that. For Internet usage, do we need more space, let alone double the present square footage? The library needs to reduce its collection and increase its technology offerings including training and service. That will attract young families to the library. Building a huge, costly addition is not the answer.

Paul Matlock: Library Addition “Not So Much for Books as Room for People”

Paul Matlock, library trustee, commented on my post, Of Books and Libraries, and I would like more people to read it so I’m reprinting his comment here. I believe putting more information in the public space is always the best course, even if it leads people to draw different conclusions than I do about the issues at hand.

Max,

You could have saved a lot of money if you had gotten the books you are reading from the library.

While it may be true that the average library function has twelve people, those numbers do not reflect the usage by outside groups. For instance, my hiking group uses the meeting room and we have 35-40 people present. Those numbers are not in that average of twelve that you quote. Same with other civic groups. And what about groups like the girl scouts? They have too big of a group and go into Wolfeboro for meetings.
Don’t count on interlibrary loan being available forever. ILL is paid for by federal dollars and Trump has been trying to zero out the funding.

Libraries are a thing of the past? Really? I guess Wolfeboro didn’t get the memo. The space addition we are proposing is not so much for books as room for people (meeting rooms, program space, computer stations).

Paul Matlock, library trustee

Library Warrant Article in Violation of State Law

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.

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.

Selectmen, Budget Committee Propose 12% Increase in Taxes Raised

The selectmen and Budget Committee have proposed budgets this year that would increase the “amount of taxes to be raised” by approximately 12% on the local part of our tax bill (not including state and county taxes), compared to last year. Continue reading “Selectmen, Budget Committee Propose 12% Increase in Taxes Raised”

Tuftonboro Town Report 2017

The 2017 town report has been released.

The total mount of money that could be appropriated at Town Meeting, if all warrant articles and the operating budget pass, is $7,001,568 (See page 20 of the PDF, labelled  “page 11 of 11.”)

The budget detail starts on page 21 of the PDF, labelled “page 17.”

Warrant articles start on page 30 of the PDF (and are the same as reported yesterday).