By THOMAS P. CALDWELL, LACONIA DAILY SUN
GILFORD — A letter that the Gilford Taxpayers Coalition mailed to residents has no connection with town officials, according to the Town Administrator Scott Dunn.
He said the town has received several inquiries about the mailing, which recommends which individuals and articles to support on March 13.
“Please be advised the information being distributed IS NOT AFFILIATED with the Town of Gilford or the Board of Selectmen or the Office of the Town Clerk-Tax Collector,” Dunn wrote.
“Accordingly, the Town neither endorses nor condones the content ot the mailing. The official recommendations of the Board of Selectmen, Planning Board and the Budget Committee are set forth in several warrant articles as noted on the ballot. No other positions have been expressed and no mailings have been sent by any Town of Gilford government officials.”
The coalition’s “Election Edition” reminds voters that March 13 is election day, with polling hours between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. in the Gilford Youth Center at 19 Potter Hill Road.
It then goes to say, “Please remember that because so many voters failed to vote last year because of the snow storm, their missing votes cost all Gilford taxpayers lots of money.”
The letter also describes the procedure for obtaining an absentee ballot.
Noting that nearly every seat is uncontested this year, the coalition wrote, “The most important contested race is for the 4 positions on the Gilford Budget Committee,” and said, “this year the School Establishment has fielded a full field of candidates in an effort to swing the makeup of the Budget Committee away from scrutiny of school over spending.”
It then endorses Jack Kelley, Norman Silber, and Harry Bean for the three-year seats and Priscilla Bean for the two-year seat.
The letter urges residents to vote against several articles on the ballot, but to support Article 34, which it says would prohibit using tax money for lobbying activities.
Article 34 is a petitioned article prohibiting the town from paying membership dues to the New Hampshire Municipal Association, but allowing the town to take advantage of the association’s educational seminars.
The article was submitted before the selectmen removed the dues funding from the operating budget, which amounts to the same thing.
During the town’s deliberative session, supporters of membership in the association spoke of the value of the training seminars it offers and said, without joining, town officials would not be able to attend the seminars.
Judy Silva, executive director of the Municipal Association, confirmed that statement. “Membership has its privileges,” she said.
Part of the justification for dropping membership is the lobbying that the Municipal Association does in Concord.
Budget Committee Chairman Norman Silber said, “The New Hampshire Municipal Association lobbies the legislature using taxpayer money to obtain taxpayer money, and not every town may agree with a particular position.”
Silva said a particular municipal official may not like a particular position the association takes, but those decisions are member-driven.
Any member may offer policy ideas to the legislative policy committee, which has three appointed and three elected officials, she said. The committee members vet the recommendations and send them to all member communities to review. Those municipalities then send a voting delegate to the Municipal Association’s legislative policy conference where it takes a two-thirds vote to proceed.
“If it’s something that is going to pit one member against another, we stay out of it,” she said.