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Keene Sentinel article about 12/12 Selectmen meeting about Town Taxes

Troy officials aim to reassure residents about town finances By Meghan Foley Sentinel Staff
| Posted: Friday, December 13, 2013 12:00 pm

TROY — Troy isn’t going bankrupt.

Town officials adamantly made that point on multiple occasions during a meeting about the town’s financial situation Thursday night.

They also said they expect the town will make all its remaining payments due this year.

“People are coming in to pay their tax bills, and my cash flow is starting to look better,” Treasurer Janet L. McCullough told about 40 residents gathered at the Gay-Kimball Library.

So far, the town has received about $194,000 in revenue this month, and more is expected as tax bills are due on Jan. 8, she said.

She is confident the tax revenue, combined with $604,553 cash on hand the town had as of Dec. 11, will be enough, she said.

McCullough’s optimism, and that of members of the Troy Board of Selectmen, was much different from the concern being portrayed over the past month about the town’s finances.

In mid-November, selectmen submitted an application for assistance to Gov. Maggie Hassan and the N.H. Executive Council, requesting a $953,668 loan to cover the town’s expenses through Jan. 31, 2014.

The request was made at about the time selectmen appealed the 2013 tax rate to the N.H. Department of Revenue Administration, and after selectmen filed a petition with the N.H. Department of Education asking it to overrule Monadnock Regional School District voters’ approval of a petition warrant article in March.

The warrant article sought to change the formula towns followed in determining the amount the pay to the school district annually, from being based on 50 percent student enrollment and 50 percent town property valuation, to 75 percent student enrollment and 25 percent town property valuation.

District voters passed the warrant article, 1,170 to 708.

Besides Troy, Monadnock covers Fitzwilliam, Gilsum, Richmond, Roxbury and Swanzey.

The formula change, which took effect on July 1, caused Troy’s payments to Monadnock to spike. It also contributed to a 76.5 percent jump in the local education portion of the town’s total tax rate, from $11.51 per $1,000 assessed valuation in 2012 to $20.32 this year.

By the end of last week, the N.H. Executive Council had ruled not to accept Troy’s application for assistance, the state Department of Revenue Administration had upheld the tax rate of $36.26 per $1,000 assessed valuation, and the state Board of Education said it didn’t have the authority to decide whether the school funding formula change was approved illegally.

Following the Board of Education’s decision, Troy selectmen filed suit against the Monadnock school district in Cheshire County Superior Court over the legality of using a formula that wasn’t recommended by the school board. The board didn’t take a stand on the petition article before it went to voters.

Troy couldn’t release its tax bills until the tax rate was set, and the N.H. Department of Revenue Administration ruled on the town’s appeal, McCullough said Thursday night.

With the tax bills finally being sent out last week, she expects the cash-flow issue the town has been dealing with recently will be resolved soon, she said.

Questions from residents at Thursday’s meeting focused mostly on what, if anything, they could do about the high tax rate and the school funding formula.

Selectman William T. Matson encouraged residents to get involved with the town and school governments, and let their voices be heard at Monadnock’s school board and budget committee meetings.

Selectmen Chairman Gideon L. Nadeau Sr. added state legislators really need to address the issue of how to pay for public education. Putting most of that responsibility on the cities and towns, especially in a regional school district, is just pitting one community against the other, he said.

“They have to come up with some other formula to fund the schools. They can’t keep doing it through (property) taxation.”