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Joyce Endee

Gilford Community Band restores full funding at deliberative session

February 16, 2011
Supporters of the Gilford Community Band made their voices loud and clear during the 2011 town deliberation session and were triumphant in their endeavor, winning back a 50 percent budget cut.

New Town Moderator Sandra McGonagle swept smoothly through her first deliberative session. Prior to the session, she informed the audience that a new law under House Bill 77, recently signed by New Hampshire Governor John Lynch, would allow voters to change the dollar amount of an appropriation in a warrant article, but not the subject matter.

With 21 warrant articles on this year's town ballot, including four zoning amendments and five petitioned warrant articles, Gilford Community Band manager Don Chesebrough was the only resident to make an amended motion to the town warrant.

His amendment to return $750 to the previous $1,500 in GCB funds increased the proposed budget from $11,209,988 to $11,210,738.

Chesebrough said this was the first year he felt little support from the selectmen in regards to the GCB.

He explained that in '76, the town received a grant to build a bandstand, and a year later local musicians formed the Gilford town band. In the mid-70s into the early '80s, the Board of Selectmen at the time voted to endorse the GCB. Over 15 years, he noted that annual funds have only increased by $500 and still meet the minimum necessities.

"This year, with no coordination from the town to manage the budget, the Board of Selectmen selected a decrease of 50 percent in support," said Chesebrough. "That's not enough to pay the director, our most major expense. I feel this cut was made without justification."

Other representatives stood and said they felt the 50 percent cut was unjustified, considering the band's 32-year tradition and the fact that small town bands, such as Center Harbor, receive almost twice the amount in funds.

After Chesebrough had the chance to speak, the majority of residents in the audience voted in favor of adding $750 back into the town budget, bringing the GCB's total funds to $1,500, as it has been for the last few years.

While no more changes were made during the town deliberative session, residents and elected officials alike said they felt torn on the issues of outside agencies, including petitioned warrant articles submitted by Child and Family Services, Genesis Behavioral Health, Community Health & Hospice, Laconia Area Center, and New Beginnings.

The selectmen voted against all five petitioned warrants, and the Budget Committee voted against all except for the Laconia Area Center. Chair of the Budget Committee Dick Hickok explained that fewer committee members were present for the final vote, which explains its inconsistency with other votes.

Board of Selectmen Chairman Kevin Hayes said that by law, the selectmen and Budget Committee are required to vote, and results are printed on this year's ballot.

"We always struggle with these articles. We see them on the ballot, yet we don't want to vote for or against them," said Hayes.

Speaking for all the selectmen, he said the board decided to vote against all the petitioned articles because they felt the agencies did not provide them with adequate financial information as requested. Hayes stressed that it was not necessarily the subject matter that the warrants held, but the lack of knowledge on where funds come and go for these outside agencies.

Hickok said he could share the board's frustration on the matter.

"The committee has also struggled with these outside agencies for years. None of us are against the needs of the town, yet we have always struggled with funding these," said Hickok.

A small number of residents spoke against the petitions, while half a dozen residents felt the need to express their support for outside agencies. Some residents were simply for the cause and believed these agencies could benefit the community, while others had experienced the kindness of these agencies first hand when family members of their own were in need.

Dale Dormody, speaking on his own behalf, also happens to be a Budget Committee member, and mentioned that most committee members were split on their support, which resulted in numerous ties this year.

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