To The Daily Sun,
Most of the time when people hear that I am a selectman they cringe, ask me why, and tell me that it's a thankless job. So when I was encouraged to run for re-election this year I thought a lot about the "thankless" job.
Alton is my home. For most of my adult life, I have made an effort to be involved. I've been a volunteer coach and commission member for Parks and Rec. I volunteered for the Budget Committee when they were in need of additional members and served on the Capital Improvement Committee when we still had one. I am a past president of the Alton Youth League and was elected to the School Board. In 2011, I became a selectman. I have approached each of these positions, volunteer, appointed and elected with one goal in mind. Making a positive contribution and representing everyone across the board equally.
Although my passion for what I believe in can sometimes get the better of me, I am confident that anyone I have served on the board with would say that I keep an open mind and if the facts presented to me make sense I am able to change my position if it is in the best interest for the majority of the town. Over the past few years our meetings have had low, very low attendance. We typically average three to five people, and generally those people are on the agenda. We can fill a room with a public hearing on road reconstruction, but even our recent meeting regarding the ambulance only brought in about a dozen people.
Our deliberative sessions are also poorly attended, but voter turnout is average with what other New Hampshire towns experience. This leads me to believe that, for the most part, taxpayers are pleased with the job we have been doing.
Since 2011, when I joined the board, we have had two years that our total tax rate was lowered from the previous year. A former selectman who is now running for election to the board has stated our taxes have gone up 40 percent since 2005. I think it's important that statements like this be qualified. The biggest culprit for these increases has been health insurance, something municipalities and companies across the country are struggling with. A Time magazine report from September 2009 (if we are going to compare tax rates from 2005 to the present, I think it's okay to quote an article from 2009) shows that health insurance premiums from 1999 to 2009 increased 131 percent vs. inflation of 29 percent for the same period. A more recent study by the Journal of American Medical Association, published by Forbes in June 2015, shows an increase in healthcare of 91 percent from 2005 to 2011. I think we all know that the costs continue today.
In an effort to combat this at the town level, we moved to high deductible plans that saved taxpayers $157,598 from 2015 to 2016. The majority of the 40 percent Mr. Wentworth quotes is attributed to something beyond our control. During this same time, we have presented voters with 267 warrant articles. Of these, 17 have failed and only seven of those were money articles. This was all accomplished without our tax rate exceeding $14.27 (2015). In fact the town portion of the tax rate has increased 81 cents from 2005 to 2015, but it sounds a lot scarier when you say there has been a 40 percent increase.
When you consider what residents receive in exchange for their tax dollars in Alton, I view this as a success. I think we have received 81 cents in community improvements. So, it is easy to say that it's a thankless job, especially when the letters to the editor are running rampant, or the Facebook posts get personal. But, the reality is, that's a really small portion of our population. I have more people thank me than criticize me. It's only a thankless job if I choose to see it that way, which I don't. We have far too many great things to celebrate in our town.
So this is the answer to the question of "why." Because people do say thank you. They do appreciate it. They may not be as loud as the others, but they are out there. We've done some great things, but there is always more to be done. Both Lou Lacourse and I would like to keep this town moving in a positive direction which is why we ask for your support on March 14.