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Veterans Tax Credit Falls Short in New London
Valley News - 3/17/2017
Valley News Correspondent
New London — A petition article to extend the town’s $500 property tax credit to all veterans who served at least 90 days in the military was defeated by one vote at Wednesday evening’s Town Meeting.
The other 24 articles on the warrant were passed by voters during the three-hour meeting.
The 66-65 ballot vote on the veteran tax credit came after passionate remarks by the petitioner, Larry Dufault, and others who said anyone who served their country deserves the credit.
“I think we should honor all veterans who served honorably,” said Korean War veteran Bill Tighe. “I don’t see any reason to deny them because their service doesn’t match the date of a conflict.”
Dufault said state law was changed last year to allow towns to give the tax credit to any veteran who met the minimum 90 days and had an honorable discharge, regardless of when they served. Previously the law only gave the credit to those served during one of the identified conflicts since World War II, though the vet did not need to have been in combat.
Dufault said service members can be called up at any time to defend the country.
“There is danger so the least we can do is offer them something,” said Dufault, a veteran. A few others agreed that all veterans should be treated the same but Dave Cook, a Navy veteran, saw it differently.
“My feeling is that it was a privilege to serve. It was a duty I owed to my country,” Cook said. “I don’t need remuneration of a monetary nature to back up my service.”
The Selectboard said that while it held veterans in high regard it opposed the article because it would mean an estimated $75,000 in lost revenue, or 6.5 cents on the tax rate, on top of the $161,000 the town already loses with the tax credit now.
“We really felt it was up to the voters and we did not have the right to decide this issue,” said Selectboard member Janet Kidder.
Resident Tom Paul objected to the concerns about the cost.
“We spend $215,000 on a street sweeper but can’t spend $75,000 on our vets? Give me a break,” Paul said, referring to a vote earlier in the evening.
“It is every year,” said Selectboard Chairman William Helm, a veteran who is eligible for the current tax credit but said he does not take it.
Also by ballot, voters approved, without discussion, a lengthy petition article calling on the federal government to cancel its nuclear weapons modernization program.
Resident John Raby, a member of Nuclear Weapons Working Group/N.H., presented the article. Raby said nuclear proliferation has made the world less safe and the modernization program has created, in the view of former secretary of defense William Perry “an arms race that is more dangerous than ever.”
“This is not a feel-good article,” Raby said. “This (movement) could grow. It has to start somewhere and with someone.”
The measure was approved, 73-45.
The only other article to stir debate was taking $265,154 from the highway capital reserve fund to buy a street sweeper, sidewalk tractor and mower. An amendment by Joe Cardello to remove the $210,000 for the street sweeper failed, 134-32, and the full amount was approved.
Cardello and others said it was a lot of money for something that is used for about a month each year and recommended the town contract for the street sweeping service, as many other towns do.
But former Selectboard member Mark Kaplan said he learned that the town should listen to Public Works Director Richard Lee. Lee said the current sweeper needs about $10,000 in repairs and the town had no luck finding a used sweeper with the $60,000 approved last year.
“When Richard Lee asks for something, don’t hesistate, give it to him,” Kaplan said. “He knows what he is doing.”
Also approved by ballot, 166-2, was an $875,000 bond for several projects including upgrading the dam on Pleasant Lake, closing the sewer lagoons and making repairs to the Academy Building. Raising $50,000 to develop an assessment management program for the wastewater collection system passed, 173-2. By a show of hands, voters easily passed all budgets including general government, highway, public safety, capital and non-capital reserve funds.
Turnout was 176 voters or 4.5 percent of the town’s 3,910 registered voters. Patrick O’Grady can be reached at email@example.com.