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In Derry, Voters To Decide Whether To Overturn Council's Budget Cuts

Town of Derry

In Derry, residents are voting Tuesday to decide whether to overturn budget cuts that were approved by the council last May.

The cuts lowered the tax rate by reducing police and fire staff positions, eliminating the human resources director position, and closing a fire station. After a summer of often heated public meetings, Tuesday’s vote comes by court order.

Hunter McGee has been covering the issue for the New Hampshire Union Leader.

He joined NHPR’s Morning Edition.

Can you recap what’s been going on in town?

Voters will be voting on eight petition questions relating to various budget cuts that were approved by the council on May 19.

My understanding is the special election has come about because of some legal wrangling back and forth.

That’s correct. After the cuts were approved by the council, there were a number of residents who regularly attended the council meetings who were definitely against those cuts and mounted a petition drive to basically overturn or repeal those cuts. That wound its way through the court system. It went to Rockingham County Superior Court and a judge had ordered the town hold that election by Sept. 30 and it was later postponed until Oct. 13. The New Hampshire Supreme Court recently upheld that decision and the election is going through.

Obviously, this has caused a lot of controversy around town with signs urging people to vote one way or another. And now I understand the national group Americans for Prosperity is weighing in on this. What’s the situation with that?

Americans for Prosperity has mounted a calling drive where they are saying they’re using local residents to call other residents to help get out the vote and vote in favor of keeping the tax cuts in place. That’s what they’re claiming.

Why would a national group be interested in getting involved in a town’s tax policy?

Americans for Prosperity has said they have a large group of workers based in Derry and they are for lower taxes and this is becoming a pretty big issue in Derry and across New Hampshire.

How much difference would this make in the average resident’s tax bill?

With the cuts that were approved by the council, on about a $250,000 house, it would save about $300 a year for the average taxpayer.

There are eight petitions on the ballot for this special election. Is there a chance some of these petitions will pass and others won’t?

Yes, I believe so. If the vote is to restore a particular cut, then it will be restored.

What happens for town politics in Derry following all of this?

There could be some fallout with the March election. I know the side in favor of restoring the services has vowed to vote the folks who voted for the cuts – four councilors, three of whom are up for re-election – to vote them out of office. This is one of the biggest votes if not the biggest vote in Derry’s modern history. It’s definitely going to be interesting to see how this turns out.

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