Wolfeboro 2013 tax rate up only 1.5%

Town portion of rate up only two cents

by Thomas Beeler
Editor of The Granite State News
November 27, 2013
WOLFEBORO — Town Manager Dave Owen announced at the Nov. 20 selectmen's meeting that the state has approved the town's 2013 property tax rate at $12.83 per thousand dollars of valuation, up 19 cents or 1.5 percent from the 2012 rate of $12.64.

The property tax rate is made up of four components: the town portion, the school portion, the state education tax portion and the county portion.

The town portion increased from $4.71 per thousand to $4.73, up only two cents or 0.42 percent.

The school portion (Governor Wentworth Regional School District) increased from $4.48 per thousand to $4.53, up five cents or 1.1 percent.

The state education tax portion went up from $2.40 per thousand to $2.46, up six cents or 2.5 percent.

The Carroll County portion went up six cents, from $1.05 per thousand to $1.11.

Property tax bills are expected to be in the mail by the end of the week, Friday, Nov. 22.

Friends of Wolfeboro Town Hall

Joyce Davis gave selectmen a status report on the activities of the Friends of Wolfeboro Town Hall, which was formed in 2007 and is a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization. Following endorsement by selectmen for pursuing a reduced-scope renovation of Brewster Memorial Hall in October 2012, the group has added board members, held a meeting on potential uses for the second floor auditorium with 20 non-profit groups, produced an information packet on the building, met with supporters at five social events, and recently did a fundraising mailing to 4,700 residents.

The Friends also raised $24,000 to supplement a $10,000 Moose Plate grant to restore the clock faces on the Town Hall's tower and has submitted a grant application to pay for the restoration of the windows on the second and third floors.

So far the Friends have had 185 pledges for a total of $720,750, and contributions and pledges continue to come in every day. Davis said the fundraising effort will continue right up to town elections, and urged the board to adopt the Town Hall renovation article.

Later in the meeting when the board did review warrant article, Town Planner Rob Houseman reviewed the reduced-scope plan and provided a detail breakdown of the $333,627 spent on Town Hall improvements since 2010, including the clock face repairs paid for by the Friends and a grant, and a July 2013 revised cost estimate of $3,437,120 for remaining work.

The plan that the Friends are working on deletes from earlier proposals providing offices on the second and third floors and converting the main floor of the Annex into meeting rooms (the Annex will continue to be used for the same offices as now). The second floor will be kept as an auditorium and an elevator will be added in the Annex to reach it, reached through a new handicap entrance.

The goal of the Friends is to raise $1 million in pledges to defray the estimated total cost of $4 million, leaving $3 million to be bonded.

Recreation contractor agreement

Parks & Recreation Director Ethan Hipple returned to the board to present a revised agreement for independent contractors providing recreation services through his department.

Hipple had brought a draft agreement to selectmen on Oct. 2 that would standardize for the first time arrangements with outside groups who offered activities such as archery, fencing and Zumba to Parks and Recreation participants. The board found problems with the proposal, including the description of the agreement as a "partnership," whether the town's proposed 20 percent of revenues covers its costs in an 80/20 split, and the fact that the application is not formatted as a legal agreement.

The revised agreement is titled "Independent Recreation Provider Contract," eliminating the word "partnership" and formatting it as a legal document. Hipple also submitted a cost analysis showing that as long as the provider paid $180, the town's costs were covered, so the revised agreement specifies a minimum of $180 or 20 percent of revenues, whichever is greater. Parks & Recreation handles the registration for the provider, collects the fees and pays the provider after the course is completed.

Selectman Linda Murray thanked Hipple for making the changes and providing the analysis. Approval of the revised agreement was unanimous.

Warrant article review

Selectmen reviewed the list of proposed warrant articles for March 2014 and went over the wording of each article.

The only changes from those previously reported were: 1) to convert the proposed $250,000 for Waste Water Treatment Plant upgrades to a capital reserve fund for that work and to put $125,000 in that reserve in 2014; and 2) to add a cost estimate of $50,000 for relocating town offices during reconstruction of Town Hall.

The Budget Committee is still working on the operating budget, so that figure is still not known.

The board voted to move ahead with all warrant articles and to hold public hearings on the four articles that need to be bonded (Middleton Road construction, Town Hall renovation, Winnipesaukee Drive reconstruction, and Public Works facility upgrades) in December.

Other business

Selectmen held a public hearing and voted to lay out Winnipesaukee Drive and Knights Pond Lane as town roads, subject to the cost of bringing both roads up to town standards being paid by property owners through a Betterment Assessment. The developer through its Attorney Randy Walker approved the improvement and acceptance of the roads but questioned whether property owners should pay for it. See separate story in this issue.

Public Works Director Dave Ford read a statement giving the status of the town's lawsuit against Wright-Pierce Engineers. See separate story on this page.

Selectmen heard a status report on outstanding capital projects from Ford, Parks and Recreation Director Hipple and Town Planner Rob Houseman. See separate story on that report.

The board held another public hearing and voted to accept a grant of $5,000 from New Hampshire the Beautiful to defray the cost of a horizontal baler purchased for the town transfer station.

Selectmen approved using $55,000 of Conservation Commission Land Funds to purchase 56 acres on top of Whiteface Mountain abutting a 45-acre conservation lot owned by the town. The Land Bank of Wolfeboro-Tuftonboro will contribute the remaining $25,000 of the $80,000 purchase price but the town will own the lot.

Finance Director Pete Chamberlin presented his monthly report on expenditures and revenues against budget through October. The report showed expenditures running well under projections: with 83.3 percent of the year completed, expenditures for the general fund are 79.1 percent of budget and overall expenditures, including the four Enterprise Funds, is 79.8 percent of budget. Revenues are 95.2 percent of budget, with the most significant general fund difference being in Motor Vehicle Permit fees, which are down 12.8 percent from 2012 year-to-date.

During public input Suzanne Ryan asked selectmen to change the status of a parcel owned by the Cotton Mountain Church changed back to tax-exempt because it is a parking lot that is also used by the town. Town Manager Owen replied that the town's assessor says an abatement request needs to be filed because presently the lot is not used for church purposes.

Also during public input Barbara Mosley urged selectmen and residents to vote in favor of a $10,000 grant for the L.I.F.E. Ministries Food Pantry. The contest runs through November. To help the food pantry get the grant, search on the internet for "Wolfeboro KIND movement," click on the Facebook link, then on "Hunger is not just a game: KINDness matters." You will then be given the chance to vote in returning for doing something kind from a list of choice. As of Monday afternoon, Nov. 25, there were 158 votes.

Owen announced there will a special election to fill the Executive Council seat held by the late Ray Burton. If that election does not have a winner, then a runoff election will be held during town elections in March.

The town is still looking for a recording secretary for its Economic Development Committee. The pay is $14.10 an hour. Applicants should contact Owen at 569-8161.

Also needed are two members for the Information Systems Advisory Committee. Applicants for those positions should also contact Owen.

The board approved setting up a Wellness Committee for town employees and allocate $600 for expenses, as proposed by Jeff Urquhart.

The next meeting of the Wolfeboro Board of Selectmen will be on Wednesday, Dec. 4, at 6:30 p.m. at the Wolfeboro Public Library meeting room.

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