Tuftonboro Year in Review 2009
December 31, 2009
TUFTONBORO — Tuftonboro officials ended 2009 with a celebration at the Town Hall to thank its many volunteers serving on town boards and committees. It was a first, considered a success by all involved, and will likely be repeated next year.
A look back through the year shows that the three-member board of selectmen, comprised of Chairman Dan Duffy, Bill Stockman and Carolyn Sundquist, made strides in improving communication throughout the town with a new, attractive and up to date Web site, with extensive links to all town boards and committees.
Notable issues concerned: taxes; property assessment and its related topics of road classification, current use and plowing; development of a plan for a public safety building; and an ongoing saga with resident Bill Holmes on center stage for most of the year for failure to clear his property of unregistered and uninspected vehicles.
A tax hike to $9.01 per $1,000 of assessed value from last year's $7.95, is attributed in large part to the board's decision not to transfer money this year from the undesignated fund balance to offset this year's tax rate. The town is retaining 9.8 percent, a total of $999,855, a figure at the low end of the state recommended safety net of 8 to 16 percent.
Also, revenue decreased by $114,870. A vote at the March town meeting to increase the veteran's tax credit from $250 to $500, resulted in an increase in applications. That alone decreased tax revenue by $50,000.
The town tax accounted for $2.52 of the $9.01 per $1,000 property tax rate; the local educational tax amounts to $3.13 and the state educational tax represents $2.39, for a combined total of $5.52; and the county portion is $.97.
Told by Dave Hynes, of the New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration (DRA) in March that "2010 is your year to update values," the board got to work on reviewing around 300 current use applications.
Assessors from Cross County Appraisals, Jeff Earls and Dave Wiley, and Gary Karp of the Department of Revenue Administration (DRA), are ready to move forward on Tuftonboro's appraisal, due to the DRA by September 2010.
A related issue is that of road classification. Sue Weeks, a former selectman and also a developer of the town's map, noted at a board meeting that everyone's taxes are linked to classification and that Class V classification can help generate more highway block grant funding, but it also gives a property owner the right to develop his land.
Chairman of the Capital Improvement Program committee, John Simms, updated the road classification list, necessary to qualify for highway block grant money, and submitted a final copy to the Department of Transportation (DOT), after studying the town map, exploring all the roads, and meeting with Weeks for final review.
The discussion of road classification generated controversy over how to classify some roads in town, which are plowed by the town out of convenience to the plower, and who needs a turn around. It was established that if the town has maintained a Class VI road regularly, plowing in the winter and attending to it in the summer as well, it becomes a Class V road.
Selectmen have been gathering information on digitalizing the tax maps for easy access, but it has proven to be a complicated issue that they have put on hold for the time being.
Public Safety Facilities Committee
The public safety facilities committee headed first by Guy Pike, and then by John LaPolla, began in March of 2008 and culminated, after plans were shown and discussed by the police and fire chiefs as well as the selectmen, in a final report to the community on July 30 at the Tuftonboro Central School.
Since then the selectmen voted 2-1 to move forward with plans for a standalone fire station on the Dearborn property. Sundquist was the lone vote against, taking the position that since the board does not intend to put such a plan on this coming year's warrant, that there is time to obtain figures to compare the difference between a combined fire/police facility and separate facilities.
Bill Holmes matter
Longstanding efforts by Code Officer Jack Parsons to force resident Bill Holmes to clear his property of unlicensed and unregistered vehicles resulted in a deadline, an extended deadline, and finally, a conclusion on June 1, and Holmes was commended for his compliance.
Parsons suggested a $2,500 fine to help offset the costs to the town over the years of trying to resolve the problem. The board agreed, 2-1 with Stockman voting against, and also voted to waive Holmes' accumulated fines of $55,700 with the stipulation that he remain in compliance, and asked that he set up a payment schedule at the town office.
As of this writing, Holmes has not sent any money toward his fine to the town and his neighbors, John and Melanie Ratcliffe, dissatisfied with the compliance outcome, have engaged legal services to reconcile their disagreement.
Gift to the town
The Tuftonboro Board of Selectmen accepted a gift from Army Captain Mary Laase on behalf of the town at their July 20 meeting, a flag flown over Afghanistan during a combat mission in an F15 in the 492nd Fighter Squadron on April 18.