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Frequently Asked Questions > Municipal Services Division

I need more information about the Municipal Services Division
The Municipal Services Division is responsible for establishing and approving municipal, school, county, and village district tax rates; providing technical assistance, relative to taxation and finance to the political subdivisions of the state; and prescribing a uniform chart of accounts for all municipalities, schools, counties and village districts.

How can citizens at a town or school district meeting ensure that voting on a controversial issue is done by secret ballot?
New Hampshire Revised Statues Annotated RSA 40:4-a, allows 5 (or 3 in small towns) voters to request such in writing prior to the vote; this could be done by simply writing a note to the moderator at the meeting.

Can a voter amend a warrant article from the floor of the meeting in such a way as to change the purpose of the article as posted?
No, RSA 32:6 states, in part, 'No such meeting shall appropriate any money for any purpose unless that purpose appears in the budget or in a special warrant article, provided, however, that the legislative body may vote to appropriate more than, or less than, the amount recommended for such purpose in the budget or warrant, except as provided in RSA 32:18.' For example, if the warrant contained an article to appropriate money to a capital reserve fund for police cruisers, the legislative body could not legally amend the article to buy a cruiser instead; putting money into a capital reserve is a different purpose than buying now.

If use of 'surplus' is introduced from the floor at a town or school district meeting but was not included in the warrant, is that a permissible amendment?
Yes. The definition for 'purpose' in RSA 32:3 is as follows: 'Purpose' means a goal or aim to be accomplished through the expenditure of public funds. In addition, as used in RSA 32:8 and RSA 32:10, I(e), concerning the limitation on expenditures, a line on the budget form posted with the warrant, or form submitted to the department of revenue administration, or an appropriation contained in a special warrant article, shall be considered a single 'purpose'.

Note that 'purpose' is defined in terms of expenditures, not revenues. It is the responsibility of the legislative body to vote appropriations, not revenues.

What is 'surplus'?
'Surplus' is an old term left over from cash-basis accounting. Since most governments changed to modified accrual accounting in the 1970s, the proper term to use now is 'fund balance'.

'Fund balance' is the difference between the assets and liabilities of the local government. One large asset in most towns is overdue taxes. Since those have not generated any cash to the local government yet, it's unwise to think of fund balance as cash.

How can a town or school district meeting empower the town or school district to spend money which was not specifically voted on at the meeting?
Two ways:

1) Town or school district meeting can appoint their governing body as agents to expend from capital reserve funds or expendable trust funds, but only for the purposes of those funds; agents cannot be appointed for a land purchase unless the provisions of RSA 41:14-a have been adopted.

2) Town or school district meeting can, in a warrant article, empower their governing body 'to apply for, accept and expend, without further action … unanticipated money from the state, federal or other governmental unit or a private source which becomes available during the fiscal year.' This power can be adopted each year or can be adopted until rescinded by the legislative body.

The Attorney General's Office has interpreted this statute to mean that the source of the money is unanticipated, such as a Federal grant that becomes available after the annual meeting. Whenever an anticipated source of funding, such as Medicaid, arrives in a larger than anticipated amount, the extra can not be spent without permission of the legislative body.

What can a citizen do to get a particular subject matter on the warrant?
A citizen could simply request of the governing body that the subject matter be a warrant article. The governing body might either agree or decide not to include the subject in a warrant article.

The surest way to get a subject on the warrant is through the petition process. According to RSA 39:3, the petition must be in writing and signed by 25 or more registered voters or 2 percent of the registered voters, whichever is less. The wording must clearly state the subject and, if a money article, must state the amount of money being appropriated. Sample warrant article wording is available on the Municiple Services Division Web page.

The petition must be in the hands of the selectmen no later than the 5 weeks before the date for the annual meeting (by RSA 39:1, that is the second Tuesday in March); for school districts, it must be in the hands of the school board no later than 30 days before the meeting or 30 days before the second Tuesday in March, whichever is earlier. The deadline for petitioned warrant articles in municipalities which have adopted the official ballot law has been changed by the legislature several times; please refer to the most recent version of RSA 40:13.

What is the function of the budget committee?
The budget committee's function is to prepare and recommend a budget for the town, any school or village district completely within the boundaries of the town. The recommendations are very important because the legislative body cannot legally adopt a budget exceeding the recommendations of the budget committee by more than 10%. The budget committee also reviews the spending of each entity periodically.

How can my town adopt or rescind a budget committee?
An official budget committee can be adopted by a town, a cooperative school district, a village district located in more than one town and a school district located in a municipality which cannot adopt a budget committee itself, such as a city. The wording of the warrant article should include a reference to RSA 32:14. Rescinding the adoption takes place the same way. The voting must be by ballot and needs a simple majority.

What is Senate Bill 2 (also known as SB2)?
In 1995, the legislature passed Senate Bill 2, which became part of the Revised Statutes Annotated, RSA 40:12-15. This allows any local political subdivision of the state whose legislative body raises and appropriates funds through any annual meeting to adopt voting by official ballot on all warrant articles.

RSA 40:12-15 requires two sessions, the first of which shall consist of explanation, discussion and debate of each warrant article; voters may amend and vote on amendments, but no final vote may be taken on any warrant article. The second session of the annual meeting will be held to elect officers by official ballot, to vote on questions required by law to be inserted on said official ballot, and to vote on all warrant articles from the first session by official ballot.

What is the Debt Limit for my town/village/district or precinct?
This is located in our Equalization Survey Booklet. You can also find the current ratio for your town/city there.

How do I get to the Municipal Services Division?
See our map and directions page.

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