Upon receiving the Gift of $821,500 from Elizabeth C. Giorgianni, the selectmen immediately contacted the NH Attorney Generals charitable gifts division for guidance. Their instructions to the selectmen were that they had the authority to spend the gift until the 31st of December of the year received, after that it would need to be decided at Town Meeting. The AG’s office advised the selectmen that if there were any immediate needs they should expend the funds before town meeting.
The Board then let the Townspeople know through TTN that they would take advisement from townspeople on how to expend at the selectmen’s meetings up until October 15th. Several elected officials, department heads and citizens came in and met with the Board offering advice and giving suggestions.
These ranged from the Trustee of the Trust funds advising investing the full amount long term for 5-10 years, appeals for major equipment purchases, applying the gift to offset the tax rate, renovating the Town hall, purchasing the td bank and moving offices, building a swimming pool, and building an early education center.
We had weekly discussions reviewing the suggestions and decided the following.
That Helping Hands has provided a tremendous service to the Town of Troy, was well managed, was an established 501c3 nonprofit and provided services to the taxpayer that the Town could not. Recognizing the amount contributed to Helping Hands from the Town Budget nowhere near reflected their contribution to the Community, The Board decided to allocate $50,000 as an unrestricted gift to helping hands
That My Neighbor’s House had the potential to save the Town in welfare expenditures while providing a gate way to much needed social services for our elderly and low income community. Although a startup, they had attained state and federal nonprofit 5013c status, had a Board comprised of respected and dedicated community leaders, had professional direction in fundraising and legal matter, and there was an immediate need for their services.
The welfare director detailed many instances where the town was either unable to provide support for families in distress, or support was prohibitively expensive, or the expectations imposed upon the victims led to extremely negative consequences. She detailed how housing a family of 4 in a motel in Keene cost approximately $1250 a month to the town and $1200 a month to the school for transportation if there were students. My neighbor’s house would be able to provide those services for $800 a month. The Police chief reviewed requirements which include no drugs, drinking, guests, and background check. The Board recognized the group’s goal of creating a community that can respond to disaster by telling a child “they’ll be staying at my neighbor’s house” instead of we are going to a shelter.
The Board decided to allocate $50,000 for unrestricted startup costs.
At that point our discussions were leaning toward presenting a series of warrant articles dividing the remainder into trusts for recreation , buildings , emergency services.
Then we all received our tax bills. The 3 selectmen saw increases of $1000, $1000, $700. The administrative assistant was paying $663 a month. Our two largest business saw increases of $12,000 and $6,000. Tax payer complaints were many and recognized. To add insult to the injury we were told by the district business administrator via our Treasurer “I’m attaching the apportionment that I sent to the DOE. If it stays as I submitted the amount apportioned to the town of Troy from the District is a 17% increase. Sorry, I told everybody this last year, no one would listen, I can tell you that next year will be far worse”
At that point I saw I needed to concentrate my efforts on the School Board which will end up with a motion to reduce the budget by 10% or $3.1 million. We recognized the fact that no matter what we did this year, the June bill will be at the same or higher amount, and if nothing was done on the school board level, next November our tax rate would be over 40%.
Meanwhile our Department heads met and developed a plan on their own. They came before the select board and pointed out the positive effect that using some of the gift money on capital expenses would have on the taxes.
The library was going to ask for $46k for needed repairs, could that come out of the gift?
The highway department needs to replace the sidewalk plow. We recently committed to the complete streets program, received safe streets money, and encourage citizens to walk. Could $93k come from the gift rather than taxation?
The forestry truck for the fire department? It’s an antique. $60k.
We discussed the ambulance, recognized they had over $100k in capital reserve plus added income through their billings and all decided we would be OK without an allocation.
The Police Chief presented the argument for paying off the current leases on the police cruisers and the highway truck. Doing that and adding to the capital reserve on the same level would provide tax reductions and put us in the position to have the next cruiser paid for.
He also requested $10k for replacing protective vests that were soon going out of warranty.
We debated this long and hard. All of us had to be persuaded by strength of argument on one item or the other. I was very opposed to the money being spent on things rather than on people, education or services. Others pointed out the benefits to the taxpayers by paying these items from the gift and their links to maintaining the infrastructure needed for following up on our commitments and safety.
Finally, I related to the board some of my experiences in working with the schools both as a volunteer in the RSVP reading program and as one of your representatives to the district budget committee. We spoke about how the Gilsum school Steam program differs from what is offered in Troy. We spoke about our high number of students living below or at the poverty level. I relayed my conversation with Dr. Stone the principal who spoke of teachers and staff who paid out of their own pockets to make sure that all the kids get to go on paid field trips.
A key factor in a young child’s educational success is the involvement of the parents and the ability to have equal access to all opportunities regardless of his economic status. Gilsum has an extremely active PTO, high parent involvement, and advanced fundraising efforts that provide extra educational experiences.
We met with the Troy PTO President, confirmed their nonprofit status, and consulted Dr. Stone again. The Board agreed to have the PTO set up a separate account dual signed by the School Principal and the Chairman of the BOS. The PTO would request funding for projects through the Principal and approved by the select board. $20, 000 would be provided for this fund with the expectation of invigorating that organization in anticipation of upcoming changes to the district.
In the end the board decided to fund the following list from the gift.
- Brush Truck $60,000
- Highway Department Truck Lease $48,256.43
- Sidewalk Plow $93,000
- Police Department Car Lease $16,561.09
- Police Department Truck Lease $38,737.77
- Police Department Vests $10,000.00
- Gay Kimball Library Repairs $46,000
- Troy Common Band Stand Repairs $16,050
- My Neighbors House $50,000
- Troy PTCO $20,000
- Raiil depot $10000
- Historical Society $5000
- Festival Committee $5000
The remainder of the funds be presented in a series of articles establishing funds of a lower level than originally planned.
I wish to thank the department heads of the Town of Troy for their thoughtful, honest assessment of the situation, and for taking the initiative to present a reasoned, thought full approach from the towns people.