In my humble opinion when government acts fast and loose with our laws and our money, once placed under scrutiny, there is a mad scramble to justify its actions.
Is this happening in Rochester?
For a few years now, budgets have been incomplete, and lacking fiscal accuracy and accountability. Supplemental appropriation after supplemental appropriation (some requiring bonding) have been the norm here to fill in the omissions in passed budgets required by law.
Example; The city charter and state law, says you must present the following in Preparation of Budgets RSA 32:4 Estimate of Expenditures and Revenues. - "All municipal officers, administrative officials and department heads, including officers of such self-sustaining departments as water, sewer, and electric departments, shall prepare statements of estimated expenditures and revenues for the ensuing fiscal year, and shall submit such statements to their respective governing bodies, at such times and in such detail as the governing body may require."
Why are we having to do millions in supplemental appropriations that weren't included in our budget and required by law? Was it to keep the budget artificially low to keep spending under our tax cap? If not, why weren't these additional expenditures, already more than $5 million 31 days into this fiscal year, in the budget? Is it ineptitude? Are the wrong people in charge of our affairs and our money?
Methinks these actions do not pass the smell test.
Another troubling issue. How can the City Council vote to buy land and allow for a purchase and sale agreement without first voting an appropriation for the amount needed? RSA Section 32:8 Limitation on Expenditures. "No board of selectmen, school board, village district commissioners or any other officer, employee, or agency of the municipality acting as such shall pay or agree to pay any money, or incur any liability involving the expenditure of any money, for any purpose in excess of the amount appropriated by the legislative body for that purpose, or for any purpose for which no appropriation has been made."
Seems pretty clear to me that you can't spend money if there is no appropriation. Could they agree to move forward with a P&S agreement to buy land? Probably, if there was a stipulation in the P&S stating "Pending apappropriation by the city council" or something like that. But money, not in the budget cannot be appropriated without a public hearing and then a vote by the City Council.
Another stinky deal. What is going on in Rochester and how do we fix it?
A good start would be to obey the laws and City Charter as written and stop interpreting them as you wish, (including adding words that are not in statute to get your desired outcome.) Let the sun shine in on procedures and policies so that they can be more apt to withstand scrutiny. A small step to bring a breath of "fresh air" to the polluted, stagnant, and stinky fiscal policies currently being applied, enforced, and blessed by a majority of our elected city councilors. Stop and take a deep breath...if you can stand the smell.
Cliff Newton is the state rep for Strafford District 9. He is a longtime Rochester resident.