To The Daily Sun,
Regarding Warrant Article 24 for Gilford Town Meeting and Article VIII for Gilford School District Meeting — a petition to move our town meeting date from March to May:
I first heard of this warrant article on January 10, at the Budget Committee hearing. Listening to the initial arguments for and against, I went home and used the foolproof formula for reasoning that my mother taught me many years ago: Make two columns, label one “Reasons For” and one “Reasons against.”
There is the possibility of greater voter turnout in warmer weather, and it is possible that more “snowbirds” may be home to cast their ballots. Neither of these reasons have been proven factual; in fact it’s possible that neither one will hold true! I gathered voting information from 2008 to last year and the weather conditions on each voting day. My conclusion: Except for typical increased voter turnout on presidential election years, Gilford’s turnout has ranged between 13 and 22 percent. Yes, in 2010 turnout was 22 percent and it was 44° and fair. In comparison in 2011 we had 13 percent and it was 39° and cloudy. In 2013 we had 14% participation and it was 50° and fair. Last year we had 17 percent and 35° degrees, with a wintry mix. This data alone disproves the claim that our voting percentages are weather related. This is fuzzy logic.
It’s possible that the warrant could pass for the town but not for the school, forcing residents to have to go to TWO elections, one in March AND one in May. There are extra costs associated with running two elections.
We (the town and/or school) could be operating from January to May without a budget. Think about trying to run your household for five months not knowing exactly how much money you’re going to be paid. Any accountant will tell you that is no way to run your finances. What if something unexpected happens? It was suggested that if needed we could ask for emergency appropriations. Town Administrator Scott Dunn said in the January 29 article in The Daily Sun that if we should need an emergency appropriation it would involve petitioning the court for a special town meeting and the judge must determine that an emergency exists. If approved, that’s another town meeting and the costs associated with that as well.
It seems to be favored by the author(s) of this petition that such a move would have to include an 18-month revised fiscal year which would require the taxpayer to make (two) 9-month tax payments. Many families today live paycheck to paycheck and don’t have savings. They can’t prepare for emergency repairs much less huge tax bill! My taxes are in escrow. If my mortgage company saw my tax increased by $2,000, they would immediately increase my mortgage payment. Is the town going to call my mortgage company to explain?
There are concerns that schools would not have enough time to budget appropriately, which could mean “scraping the bottom of the barrel” for hiring and contracts because the Gilford School District hiring timeline would be pushed until after all other districts have already completed their hiring. It could possibly also put our relationship with Gilmanton at risk and our summer school program could suffer as people don’t like to scramble last minute to see if they can find childcare for the summer. Both would be a huge hit to our pockets.
The state has amended RSA 657:1 to protect voters during bad weather. “When the National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning, blizzard warning, or ice storm warning for election day a person who is elderly or infirm or who has a physical disability, who otherwise would have voted in person but has concerns for his or her safety traveling in the storm, shall be considered absent for purposes of this chapter and may vote absentee on the Monday immediately prior to the election.” This also goes for a person who cares for children or infirm adults who reasonably anticipates that school, child care, or adult care will be canceled. The full text can be found on the SOS website http://sos.nh.gov/ under changes to the election laws. It seems to me that the state has taken care of this issue and I’m certain Mr. Silber was quite aware of this seeing that he was on the ELECTION LAW committee last term as a state rep!
At the selectmen’s hearing it was suggested that only those who benefit from town spending go out in the inclement weather to vote. This is NOT a partisan issue and to try to frame it that way is ridiculous. Sometimes a single issue does drive some more than others to the polls. I dare say that’s the nature of politics — and it will continue to happen even if we change the date! I might point out that this warrant is NOT RECOMMENDED by the Board of Selectmen, who for many years have proven to have the towns best interests in mind. I do believe, however, that this statement is more to the point of WHY this petition was created. Perhaps this is more about the warrant article’s author, Norman Silber, not winning reelection to the Budget Committee last year? Because he believes that not enough of his people got out to vote?
Budget Committee member Skip Murphy stated several times in the debates that have ensued over this warrant article that this isn’t about the inconvenience to the schools or town, it’s about “the townsfolk.” I absolutely agree. All these scenarios place undue stress on not only our town or schools but mostly on us taxpayers, and for what purpose? This is an experiment at best. There is nothing to prove that this will increase voter turnout.
This isn’t a “let’s just give it a test drive and see how it goes.” This is a really BAD idea. Please VOTE NO ON Petition Warrant Article 24 for the town of Gilford and VIII for Gilford School District