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Default budget: Weare case should show the way

February 22. 2018 7:22PM

When the Legislature gave New Hampshire towns the option of adopting their annual budgets by official ballot, rather than at Town Meeting, it included a fallback option so that rejection of the proposed budget would not shut down town government.

The default budget, which goes into effect if voters say no to the plan proposed by selectmen or the town budget committee, was meant to maintain the local status quo. It is supposed to include spending from the previous year, minus one-time expenses that were not due to recur, plus any increases included in contracts already approved by voters.

Over the years, local officials have sometimes played fast and loose with default budget rules, pumping up the backup plan so that there is often little difference between the default budget and the proposed budget. This takes choice away from voters.

Weare resident Neal Kurk, who knows the rules well from his many years on the House Finance Committee, took his selectmen to court for including $60,000 in the default budget that had never been approved by Weare voters.

Hillsborough County Superior Court this week sided with Kurk, and that $60,000 will be taken out of the default budget. It can stay in the town’s proposed budget, and voters can approve it this spring.

The court’s decision should remind local budget officials to stay within the rules.

Politics Local and County Government Editorial

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