SANDOWN – An informal poll taken by the Tri-Town Times indicates residents think voting turnout will jump a little during the secret ballot vote Tuesday, March 11, for a variety of factors.
There are many variables that contribute to how many voters turn out to cast ballots for their town and school district, but for the past few years Sandown’s turnout has been between 20 and 30 percent of registered voters.
Concern over this year’s tax rate hike saw some residents suspecting that would translate into higher voter numbers. Largely due to the school tax rate, Sandown property owners have shouldered a $6 per thousand increase to their taxes this year. It has translated into louder voices in certain areas of government, particularly in a record turnout of voters at the Timberlane Regional School District deliberative session.
Many of those who look to the school district as the source of their woes – much of the increase is the result not of additional spending at the district but because Sandown’s population of students did not decrease in line with the other district towns – simultaneously agree that as far as spending goes, there’s not much fat to find in the town’s numbers.
But there are important matters facing Sandown voters that some think will prompt a higher turnout.
Selectman chair Tom Tombarello guessed that 1,000 voters would come out Tuesday. He was on the high end of the figures, but justified it by saying displeasure with the school district would prompt higher numbers, along with concern for items on the town warrant. He cited article 3, which gives voters the chance to purchase the property at 460 Main St. to convert the apartment building into a long planned for police station.
Last year, 761 voters turned out, 846 in 2012, 685 in 2011, 1,260 in 2010, 1,135 in 2009 and 1,374 in 2008.
Other members of the board of selectmen hovered around the 700 mark. Terry Treanor suspects that 659 voters will come out. Hans Nicolaisen guessed 740 and Jim Devine went for 710.
Across the street at the police and fire stations, the guesses were similar. Police Sgt. Aurie Roy went for 800, suspecting the numbers will stay largely status quo. Fire chief Bill Tapley estimates that concern over taxes will force higher numbers and went with 920. His wife, Lisa Tapley, was less optimistic and went with 740. Ron Dulong, custodian and long-time volunteer, guessed 752.
Town moderator Nelson Rheaume topped others’ guesses with 1,140 voters. “I think it will be a pretty good turnout,” said Rheaume. He noted that taxes were a spur issue, but also support of various town warrant articles.
Selectmen’s office assistant Paula Gulla suspected numbers could be similar to 2009, the last time the town was revaluated, which forced large changes to the tax rate.
While there were various factors on the warrant that could prompt or discourage turnout, town clerk Michelle Short took a practical approach. When it comes down to it, she said, it’s the weather that drives turnout. If it’s nice outside, the numbers will be up. If it’s snowing, expect low turnout.
A summary of the items on the town warrant follows.
Article 1 is to elect officers. There are three contested races this year, for selectmen, planning board and budget committee. For selectmen, while both incumbent Jim Devine and newcomer Cynthia Buco seek two three-year terms, a single two-year seat is sought by Stephen Brown, John Quevillon and Daniel Saltalamacchia.
For planning board, Matthew Brown, Douglas Martin and Mark Traeger seek two three-year seats.
And for budget committee, both Anthony C. Piemonte and Dawn Nicolaisen seek a single one year seat. Because a three-year seat on the budget committee is not sought, there has been discussion about appointing either Nicolaisen or Piemonte to that seat after the election, with an amended one-year term.
Article 2 is the budget, coming in at $3,455,723, with the default at $3,445,641.
Articles 3 and 4 deal with the new police station. Article 3 seeks $125,873 to purchase and remodel 460 Main St. into a police station. Article 4, only operable if article 2 fails, asks for $285,806 to build a station from the ground up.
Both articles 3 and 4 would take $745,163 out of the Police Station Capital Reserve Fund, into which voters have been placing annual installments for years, for the project.
Article 5 is to accept the highway block grant.
Article 6 asks to move $25,567, taken from developers who did not finish road projects in town, from the general fund to apply it to ongoing road improvement plans.
Article 7 asks for $215,000 to be added to the Road Improvement Capital Reserve Fund to undertake the next phase in Sandown’s Road System Action Plan.
Article 8 asks for $100,000 to be placed into the Fire Equipment Apparatus and Equipment Capital Reserve Fund.
Article 9 is a petitioned article to change where money raised from the Land Use Change Tax (current use tax) goes. While currently 100 percent goes to the conservation fund, the petition seeks to place 75 percent of those funds into the general fund.
Article 10 asks for $6,000 for the Old Home Days celebration.
Article 11 would set up a capital reserve fund with $5,000 to plan for the town’s next revaluation.
Article 12 would move $16,570 from the general fund into the Town Disaster Management Expendable Trust Fund. The money initially came from federally declared emergency reimbursement.
Article 13 seeks to repeal an ordinance passed in 1998 that manages horses, cattle, sheep, swine, geese, goats and other poultry.
Article 14 seeks $25,000 to repair and repave portions of the town hall parking lot.
Article 15 asks for $12,500 for the exterior painting and re-glazing of windows at the train depot museum.
Article 16 would establish the Bridge Capital Reserve Fund with $100,000 in anticipation of future repairs of the Fremont Road bridge and potentially the Phillips Road bridge.
Article 17 seeks $25,500 for mosquito surveillance and control.
Article 18 seeks to amend the 1987 ordinance governing house numbering.
Article 19 is a petitioned article that seeks to increase the elderly exemption amounts.
Article 20 is non-binding and seeks opinions on whether the date of Old Home Days should be moved.
Voting is Tuesday, March 11, at town hall from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.