SOS fears tax cap could mean reduced services
October 02, 2009
CLAREMONT – With the tea party set to take place Saturday courtesy of Claremont Citizens for Lower Taxes, Save Our Services will hold a separate event out in front of the Moose Lodge on Broad Street where the Tea Party is also happening.
CCLT's petition proposes a municipal spending cap tied to the National Consumer Price Index, or the rate of inflation. But they've also proposed major cuts to the budget, and now fewer than two group members are running for city council (Cynthia Howard and Gerald Donatelli).
SOS rose up as a result, comprised of city residents who are fearful that such a policy could rob Claremont of the services so many have come to appreciate.
"I want to make sure we're going to continue to be a full service city," said co-founder Gary Osgood. "If I wanted to live in a small town with a volunteer fire department and a part time police officer and a library open two days a week and other limited services, I'd move to Alstead or Langdon. But I want to live in a full service city."
In an effort to counter the message from CCLT, Osgood and others are gathering outside the tea party location, the Moose Lodge on Broad Street, to discuss tax cap implications with interested residents.
Osgood said he's still waiting for any sort of concrete plan from CCLT.
"I've yet to see them come forward and say, 'okay, this is what we're talking about cutting from the budget," he said. "I fear there are other motives behind this movement. When you research the New Hampshire Advantage Coaltion [the group that authored CCLT's petition] and then research the links for groups they support, you don't have to connect too many dots before you get into right to lifer groups, gun rights advocates, Glenn Beck, and other things that I don't necessarily think are representative of Claremont … I'm just not sure this is as much of a grass roots effort as they would have us believe. They seem like well intentioned people, but I believe they're being controlled and manipulated by outside forces."
Osgood said he hopes to have numerous candidates for city council in attendance, as well as "other prominent Claremonters."
SOS member Roger Formidoni, a former city councilor and Claremont resident of 30 years, said he feels CCLT's message is "short sighted."
The city manager got us here," he said. "I think the story on WMUR news this morning says it all, about how well Claremont is doing despite the recession and about the Governor's visit this week to praise us for it."
Formidoni plans to attend tomorrow's event, and said he looks forward to discussing the matter with anyone who's interested.
"Even with the high property taxes," he said. "I think Claremont is a bargain to live in."
Although not SOS members, Stand Up for Claremont members and State Representatives Ray Gagnon and John Cloutier are both against a tax cap.
"Our message is that tax caps are a gimmick," said Gagnon Tuesday at the Villager's office. "They [CCLT] always point to Franklin as a shining example of a community with a tax cap. Go to Franklin. There's no growth there, even though they're in the fastest growing county in the state. There's no new development. Why are they the only ones in their area not experiencing growth?"
Gagnon said he thinks CCLT and NHAC are made up of "radical libertarians who simply want to disrupt and dismantle local governments."
They've openly said they want the library to open a couple days a week, and to have a volunteer fire department, cut youth sports … what they're talking about is zero growth and zero infrastructure maintenance."
Cloutier agreed, saying "I believe a spending cap would disproportionately effect city services like police and fire, and my personal favorite the library, where I spend a lot of time."
The real issue, Cloutier said, is the tax structure in New Hampshire.
"We need comprehensive tax reform in this state," he said during a visit to the Villager's office Monday afternoon. "The property tax is an antiquated way of fundraising for the state but it is what it is. I think we need to look for other ways to generate revenue at the state level."
But I'm a believer that you don't use a balanced budget amendment to balance your budget," he added.
As for the event itself, Osgood said the idea is strictly to let residents who might be attending the tea party to then contrast that with the Claremont SOS envisions."
There will be free lunch for anyone that stops by, and maybe even a few "surprise guests."
Osgood said they won't be there as long as the tea party folks, but they will be there from noon to 3 p.m.