LACONIA — Nearly a decade after the city enacted its property tax cap, Rep. David Huot has become if not the only, one of the few, public officials to openly suggest that the City Council should consider exercising its authority to override it.
Huot, a Democrat, was speaking last month amid a debate at the Belknap County Convention about whether to appropriate $336,170 to fund the pay raise and health benefits included in the tentative agreement negotiated between the Belknap County Commission and the State Employees Association on behalf of 80 full-time employees of the county nursing home.
Earlier, Rep. Frank Tilton (R-Laconia) pointed out that the increase in the 2014 county budget, which the convention adopted in March, matched the increase in the amount to be raised by property taxes specified by the city's tax cap. Therefore, he said any additional appropriation by the county would compel the City Council to trim an equivalent amount from one or more municipal departments in order to budget within the limits of the tax cap. Since Laconia bears about 19 percent of the property taxes raised by the county, Tilton calculated that funding the contract would add approximately $70,000 to the city tax commitment beyond the bounds of tax cap, requiring reduced appropriations of an equal amount. expenditure.
"I represent the people of Laconia too," said Huot, speaking in favor of funding the proposed contract. Noting that the county was obliged to fund the employer's share of the increase in health insurance premiums, he said "it is not a question of the Laconia tax cap." He went on to say that if the City Council overrode the tax cap by $70,000 the impact on property taxpayers would be minimal.
Huot later explained "I was simply pointing out that you can't run the county on the city of Laconia's tax cap." He said that the county is obliged to provide specific services that its 11 municipalities do not provide themselves, including the Registry of Deeds, Nursing Home, County Jail, County Attorney and Sheriff's Department. He said that Tilton "wrote the county budget to accommodate the city of Laconia."
Huot described the tax cap as "the third rail of city government" and likened suggesting it be overridden to breaking the pledge to oppose the introduction of a state sales or income tax. However, he insisted "override is an alternative in extreme circumstances."