GILMANTON – Selectmen appeared to reverse course on the Year-Round Library Monday night when they recommended the electorate petition two separate articles onto the 2016 town ballot.
The first article would be a simple request to fund the non-for-profit library for $50,000 – which has been the way the operating expenses have been handled for the past eight to 10 years. This would take a simple majority to pass.
The second article would ask for a three-year funding contract for $50,000 a year for the next three years. According to Chairman Rachel Hatch, because it is a petitioned article, it would need only a simple majority to pass and would obligate the town for the next three years.
Hatch's initial suggestion was to put a three-year article on the warrant asking for $150,000 with $50,000 to be raised and appropriated for fiscal year 2016. This would need a three-fifths, or 60 percent, majority to pass. If it passed, it, too, would obligate the town for the next three years.
The Gilmanton Year Round Library is a not-for-profit agency that operates from a building that is not owned by the town. Many volunteers and grants helped build it, but in recent years fundraising activities have left it short on operating capital and to continue operations the library has petitioned for money from the voters through the ballot.
The nearly 40 strong assembly of people Monday were just about split as to how they want the operations of the library funded. About half of them wanted to see it petitioned on to the warrant and many of those favored doing it one year at a time only.
About half of the people wanted the town to enter into a three-year contract with the library so that, if it passed, the library board could have some sense of how much money it had to plan programming for at least two years.
This split of about 50-50 is highly representative of the vote over the past years. In 2015, the one-year funding petitioned warrant article passed by a little over 100 votes, in 2014 it passed by less than 20, and in 2013 it failed by a just a handful.
A few people, who described themselves as families who had recently relocated to Gilmanton, support town funding without any caveats and said they consider the GYRL one of the reasons they moved to Gilmanton.
Selectman Michael Jean said he favors a selectman-generated warrant article that would need a three-fifths majority to pass.
"I felt it was a greater burden for them to justify the money," he said in a phone interview yesterday.
The key question that the board still needs to know is what effect any petitioned three-year warrant article will have on future years' budgets and default budgets.
A default budget, which is what Gilmanton is operating under this year "means the amount of the same appropriations as contained in the operating budget authorized for the previous year, reduced and increased, as the case may be, by debt service, contracts, and other obligations previously incurred or mandated by law, and reduced by one-time expenditures contained in the operating budget. For the purposes of this paragraph, one-time expenditures shall be appropriations not likely to recur in the succeeding budget...as determined by the governing body," says the state law governing them.
If there is not a majority vote for the town budget article, then the town must operate under a default budget, according to the Official Ballot Act adopted by Gilmanton about four years ago.
Should a three-year article pass, be it petitioned or not, Town Administrator Paul Branscombe said he thinks it would become part of the default budget, which led Jean to express some concern about finding $50,000 in a future 2017 or 2018 operating budget.
All selectmen agreed finding $50,000 of operating money in a default budget would be very difficult.
Guarino was the board member who insisted that the warrant article be put on by petition. He said it's what he felt was right.
"Just remember, it will only take a majority vote," said Hatch.
The final date to petition anything on the town warrant is Jan. 12.
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