Published DateSANBORNTON — Regardless of the outcome of today's vote on SB-2 or the Official Ballot Act, town's people can only hope that the road signs will disappear and the animosity between the two sides eases.
The signs are all over the place — some a simply the garden variety vote Yes or No on SB-2 — or RSA 40:13 as it will appear on the ballot — but some of the signs have been vitriolic — to say the least.
"Save Town Meeting" reads some while others read "SB-2 is the same as Town Meeting." Others indicates pro-SB2 signs are lies while other signs simply call attention to the 12 times SB-2 has appeared on the ballot and the 12 times it has gone down to defeat — sometimes although it attracted majority, but the not the necessary 60 percent, support.
Perhaps one of the more controversial signs recently has been the SB-2 is the same as Town Meeting. In addition, town-wide mailers have been sent to people by Budget Committee member Earl Leighton reiterating the same thought.
"It is a lie," said School Board member Lynn Chong who been opposed to SB-2 for as long as Leighton has been a supporter of it. "If Town Meeting and SB-2 were the same thing, the SB-2 wouldn't be necessary."
In an another mailer sent to town residents from former N.H. State Rep Tom Salatiello, he claims Town Meeting is the only thing that keeps transparency within the voting process. Salatiello goes on to say that at Town Meeting two years ago, the voters learned that Budget Committee members were lying about the library budget.
In an e-mail sent to the Sun, Leighton has said that Salatiello's accusations are libelous to the Budget Committee and the accusation of lying in untrue and unfounded.
Even members of the current Board of Selectmen takes opposite positions on SB-2 with Guy Giunta voicing his long-time advocacy of it and Karen Ober writing a letter to the editor saying she supports the traditional town meeting format.
Selectboard candidate and former Selectman Patsy Well is against SB-2. Incumbent Dave Nickerson, her opponent, was unavailable for comment yesterday.
The Official Ballot Act enacted by RSA 40:13 establishes two separate segments to Town Meeting. In a town meeting format, the selectmen budget is presented to the voters and the Budget Committee recommendations are also presented. After a two public hearings, voters physically go to Annual Town Meeting and vote up or down on the budget. Amendments to line items, hence the total budget, can be changed by the public body.
SB-2 breaks annual town meeting into two parts — a Deliberative Session held about four weeks prior to town elections where the Budget Committee's budget is presented to the voters who may make adjustments. The actual vote comes on local election day and the budget is presented as an up-or-down secret ballot vote. Warrant articles can be amended but the purpose of the article must still be contained in the body.
In both cases, all warrant articles must be reviewed by the N.H. Department of Revenue Administration with extra attention given to those that involving bonding.
The theory behind SB-2, according to the Local Government Center, was to give voters more notice of the business before the town and to cap any increase in expenditures (made at the Deliberative Session), including warrant articles, to no more than 10 percent. Proponents note that voter participation levels typically jump by several times in SB-2 towns while opponents label many of those voters as being "uninformed".
Traditionally, Sanborton has been a hot bed of SB-2 controversy, with the item appearing in 12 of the 15 years since RSA 40:13 was passed. Last year, according to Town Clerk Jane Goss, SB-2 came within 20 votes of garnering the 60 percent support it needs to pass.
Voting for SB-2 is done on the ballot on Election Day — today. Annual Town meeting is tomorrow at 7 p.m.
Caption: These two signs on Lower Bay Road in Sanbornton tell an entirely different story about the Official Ballot Act or SB2 created by RSA 40:13, as it is more commonly known. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Gail Ober)