Should Cemetery Trustees and the Selectmen be named as agents of the Centennial Cemetery Maintenance Capital Reserve?

This question will be put before voters at Town Meeting on Wednesday, March 14. Currently no agent has been named, so no monies can be withdrawn. If approved, the Trustees could go to the Selectboard office to request an expenditure of funds from the capital reserve account, and the Selectboard could approve it, says Selectman Ray Britton. “The article was by petition in 1987 and the purpose was not clearly stated – DRA recommended this article be clarified and agents named,” says Town Clerk and Tax Collector Robin Cantara.

Article 18: Centennial Cemetery Maintenance Capital Reserve, reads: “To see if the town will vote to change the purpose of the existing Cemetery Reserve previously established (1987)  to the Centennial Cemetery Maintenance Capital Reserve AND to name the Selectmen and Cemetery Trustees as agents to expend from said funds. This article requires a two-thirds vote to pass.

$7,000 requested for Centennial Cemetery Work

Article 19 on the Town Warrant this year requests $7,000, $5,000 of which is to be used for clearing out a wooded section of the Centennial Hill Road cemetery, says Trustee Mike Ballou. The cemetery is running out of space, so the trustees are asking for funds needed to clear away a wooded section capable of opening up an additional 15 or 20 spaces. Once those are spoken for, the next phase will be to open up an adjacent 2-acre parcel just on the other side of the stone wall. The balance of the funds will be set aside for future work.

 Article 19: Cemetery Reserve, reads: “To see if the town will vote to raise and appropriate the sum of $7,000.00 to be added to the Cemetery Reserve CR previously established (1987).” The Selectmen and Budget Committee recommend this appropriation. A simple majority vote is required.

Proposed change would give half the proceeds from Land Use Change Tax to Town Conservation Fund, half to the Town operating budget

People with 10 acres or more of undeveloped land used for farming, forestry or other qualified uses can get a break on their property tax bill by putting it into a special tax status known as “Current Use.” When the land comes out of current use–say, for development–the owner pays a tax penalty equal to 10% of the value of the land. Warrant article 20, to be voted on at Town Meeting is all about who gets the cash.

Warrant Article 20, put forward by the Selectboard, proposes that 50% of the Land Use Change Tax (LUCT) revenue go to the Conservation Fund and 50% to offset town operating expenses. Currently, all monies paid to the town from land use change taxes go into the Conservation Fund, managed by the town’s Conservation Commission, to be used for purposes consistent with the Conservation Commission’s charter. These might include cleaning up town-owned land, frog pond beautification, making improvements to town land, or purchasing land to protect it from development the town doesn’t want to see, says a Commission spokesperson. Currently the Commission plans to expend funds to clean up debris on Town-owned land by the waterfall between Route 10 and the Sullivan Road. The proceeds from the LUCT are the Conservation Commission’s only source of funding.

Here’s how that fund is administered: The Town Treasurer has custody. The Conservation Commission may approve the expenditure of money from the fund as part of its authorized activity under state law. However, if money from the fund is used to purchase any interest in land, a public hearing must be held and the acquisition must be approved by the Selectmen.

Last year, $4,702 of LUCT fees went into the fund, according to this year’s Town Report (p. 40). Sending half of that amount back to taxpayers would not significantly affect property tax bills, a Conservation Commission spokesperson points out. But a spokesperson for the Selectmen says a 50/50 split would be “more fair.”

The current Conservation Fund balance is about $53,000. “While having $50k in a fund may seem like a lot of money, it doesn’t go far if the Commission decides to use the funds to clean up a property or have it surveyed,” a spokesperson said. “Should an issue occur with the Silvio Conte Refuge in Gilsum and we want to negotiate a private purchase of property that they also want, we’d need cash. If we needed to hire a lawyer to deal with a conservation issue, such as wetlands or the river (the wetlands rules are in discussion for changes by DES right now), we’d need cash. Identifying areas for conservation, preservation, and town use could also require funding for hiring professionals and generating reports for the townspeople.”

A few years ago a similar proposal that would have allocated 100% of the tax to defray town operating budget and none to the Conservation Fund failed to pass at Town Meeting.

Article 20: Percent Land Use Change Tax, reads: “To see if the town will vote to authorize to change the percentage from 100% to 50% of the Land Use Change Tax collected pursuant to RSA 79-A:25 to be deposited into the existing Conservation Fund in accordance with RSA 36-A:5, III, as authorized by RSA 79-A:25, II. If adopted this article shall take effect April 1st,  and shall remain in effect until altered or rescinded by a future vote of the town meeting.” A majority vote is required.