Donor-town concerns tweaked … Rye's tax rate up 71 cents … Is Harbor Road public or private? … TV goes digital on Feb. 17

Staff of Rye Reflections

Harvest time …

The gourds are ready for decorations and the pumpkins ready for carving as they wait to be chosen outside the First United Methodist Church on Miller Avenue in Portsmouth. (Photos by Judy Palm)

Trick or treat …  

The donor-town scarecrow creeped from the shadows just in time for spooky season. On the heels of the N.H. Supreme Court dismissal of a long-standing school-funding suit, the question is being raised as to whether the present law, calling for $940 million next year, underfunds education and where the funds will come from.?

Technically the donor-town system (that has involved, among others, Rye, New Castle and Portsmouth) is to be reinstated July 1, 2011. Prior to the state high court action many believed the device would fall by the wayside. Now, who knows?

"I think we will pass the governor's constitutional amendment next year," said state Representative David Borden of New Castle in the midst of his re-election bid. "This will mean that whatever funds are available will go to specific school programs in specific school districts, and the funding mechanism will be taking money from state revenue, not donor towns.

"The problem is the majority of our citizens don't want a broad based tax, the wealthy towns don't want a donor town system, and property taxes tend to be regressive (maybe repressive for people on fixed and low incomes). So unless the federal government ups the ante (only 10% of state educational expenses are covered by Uncle Sam) we are in a holding pattern," Borden said.

My guess is that the previous (flawed) donor town system is dead." he added. "My hope is that we will find a way to help the hardest hit towns, maybe some form of voluntary assessment that is voted in town meeting in the wealthier towns."

Will Smith, also of New Castle and running for Representative for the first time, sees donor-town taxes as causing "a potentially large increase to the property tax burden for both Rye and New Castle residents. Smith told the Portsmouth Herald that the cost for New Castle is estimated at $880,000 and for Rye $1,460,000. "It is likely that a movement will be undertaken to implement a broad-based state tax," Smith continued. "Experience has shown that these kinds of taxes do nothing to reduce property taxes, but rather fuel large additional increases in state spending."

Taxing situation …

Rye's 2008 property tax rate is $9.62 per thousand, an increase of 71 cents or 8 percent. The deadline for paying (bills now going out) is Dec. 1.

The Rye Board of Selectmen announcement attributed such factors as a 9.5 percent drop in revenues ($370,715), including a $131,000 decrease in investment income, and an $81,000 decrease in motor vehicle registrations. The board stated that town appropriations increased 8.6 percent while the undesignated fund balance decreased.

A breakdown of the new rate shows $2.74 going to the the town, $3.64 to the school district, 97 cents to the county and $2.27 to the statewide school property tax.

In addition, there are three districts in town that charge their own taxes. The rate for the Jenness Beach district is 18 cents, unchanged from last year. The Rye Beach district is 31 cents, down from last year's 43 cents. The Rye Water District tax rate is 48 cents, unchanged from last year.

Piering ahead …

Thick concrete slabs were being laid last month for the reconstructed commercial pier at Rye Harbor. Years of storm damage capped by the St. Patrick's Day northeaster in 2007 that ripped up entire sections of the old pier prompted the $1.56 million state project due for completion by year's end. (Photo by Jack Driscoll)

Eight is enough? …  

For more than an hour Atty. Robert Murphy provided a history lesson using deeds, public documents, photographs, aerials and maps going back to 1851 in making the case that Harbor Road beyond the jetty is a public road.

Harbor Road runs alongside the harbor, then takes a southerly turn just past the jetty. (Google map)
Representing three of the eight abutters, Murphy testified before an Oct. 20 public hearing at Town Hall in opposition to a preliminary review by Town Counsel Michael Donovan stating that the oceanside section of road is a private right-of-way, not a town road.

The Rye Board of Selectmen took the matter under advisement but then asked Atty. Donovan as he was leaving the meeting whether he heard any new evidence that would affect his earlier opinion. "I didn't see any that really changed my overall conclusion," said Donovan.

If the section of road facing the open ocean and heading south were determined to be public, the Town of Rye would be responsible for plowing, maintenance and post-storm cleanup.

Among those testifying was resident Peter Gordon who said that years ago the Town brought in "tons and tons and tons of rock" as a buffer between the ocean and the road. He suggested that such a "massive project" would not be undertaken to protect a private road.

Being digital …

At midnight on February 17, all full-power televisions in the U.S. will stop broadcasting in analog and switch to 100% digital.

What is the advantage? We've been promised a sharper image, clearer pictures, more program options and the airwaves will be freed up for use by emergency responders.

What will consumers need to know? Some may have an analog TV which will require a converter box. Call the Coupon Program's toll-free 24-hour automated system at 1-88-DTV-2009. If your TV is connected to cable, satellite or pay TV service, you most likely will not need a converter box.

Parents should know: TV sets will be transmitting the same signals as the internet, cell phone and other digital devices. Children will be able to watch their favorite movies any time they choose. There are lots of pluses, such as documentaries and educational shows. But it can be difficult to monitor with unlimited access to TV, laptops and other digital devices. One way parents can prepare themselves to help their children choose appropriate, "smart shows" is by contacting Media Wise National Institute On Media And The Family in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Hoofing it …

A seasonal stroll along Jenness State Beach is easy on the feet for this trio who aren't even trying to keep up with the person on foot. (Ken Palm Photo)

People in the news …


Longtime landmark …

The owner of Ray's Restaurant, Andy Widen, is taking over and renovating the Rye General Store, shown above on its last day (Oct. 19) under manager Dennis Benoit who auctioned off all the store's equipment. Widen said he hopes to re-open some time "around Christmas". Located at 2203 Ocean Blvd., on the corner of Gray Court, the store has catered to morning "regulars" and Rye Beach frequenters. Real oldtimers called the store "Carberry's", while those whose memories only go back a half century have still called it "Philbrick's", based on its ownership by Herb Philbrick, famous for leading three lives (businessman, Communist Party member and undercover operative for the FBI). The book, also made into a TV series, called "I Led Three Lives" was displayed in the store windows, and Herb regularly worked the cash register for newspapers on Sundays.(Photo by Jack Driscoll)

November, 2008