While it will be obvious from looking at the ballot that the proposed 2015 Operating budget will increase spending by $1.5 million, what has not been disclosed by Hampton Town officials is that if the voters also approve all of the Town money Warrant Articles the Town portion of the tax rate will rise by 18%. This translates to a property tax increase of over $400 on the average single family home and does not even take into consideration increases by the Hampton School District and Winnacunnet High School.
The Budget Committee proposed a Town Operating Budget with a 3% increase, double the annual increase in the consumer price index (CPI), but still much more reasonable than the 6% proposed by the Selectmen. Unfortunately, the Budget Committee’s proposal was amended at the Deliberative Session essentially restoring the Selectmen’s proposed budget. The motion to increase the budget was made by former Fire Captain Dave Lang, currently the President of the Professional Firefighters of New Hampshire. It was noted in a February 13th Hampton Union Editorial on the Deliberative Session that “In Hampton, those in attendance — the majority of whom were current and former town employees and residents who serve on town committees — added back $772,260 to the town's proposed operating budget by secret ballot vote.”
Several attempts were made to justify such a phenomenal increase in Hampton property taxes; for example, Lang said after years of belt-tightening due to the recession, it was time to invest back in the people and infrastructure of the town. Selectman Bridle, also a retired Hampton Fire Captain, stated that the “public”, (referring to the Deliberative Session attendees), want service in this town, they are tired of going backwards, and they realize that, if they want to move forward, we have to do something. Both men appear to have conveniently forgotten that among other expenditures taxpayers recently approved included $10 million for two Fire Stations and the Church Street Pump Station, as well as 12 employee union contracts. In reality, Town of Hampton taxes have increased in recent years at about the same rate as the CPI, hopefully consistent with most people’s income.
In addition to the proposed $1.5 million Operating Budget increase, Town of Hampton Warrant Articles on the March ballot add up to $2.9 million, the combination of the two creating a potential 18% increase in the Town portion of the tax rate. The Rational Taxpayers of Hampton will not be supporting the Operating budget. The Selectmen increased the Default Budget by 3.5% and we do support several Warrant Articles that if approved would result in a 5.5% increase in the Town portion of the tax rate. While, this level of increase is considerably more than the increase in most people’s income, we believe some items are necessary and keep the Town moving forward at a pace that taxpayers can afford. Specific recommendations will be contained in the Yellow Sheet mailing and on this, our web site .
In recent years a coalition of “special interests” has been very successful in working together to get out voters that support their projects, contracts and candidates so much so that alternative candidates sympathetic to the general public just aren’t running. This year only one of the 24 elected positions on the Town and School ballots is contested. We are hoping that the rate shock to the residents of Hampton will send more than 3,000 voters to the polls considering that 7,000 plus showed up for the interim elections in November.
It is time for the General Public to pay attention. Please carefully consider what items on Warrant Articles you feel are necessary and show up to vote or large property tax increases are in our immediate future and Hampton will become unaffordable for many. We have tried to make the cumbersome warrant articles easy to understand on our web site as well as our opinions, it’s up to the voters of Hampton to do their civic duty and VOTE.