EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Opinion

February 14, 2014

Editorial: Democracy at its worst

Salem, N.H., voters face a $74.7 school renovation proposal at the polls next month. They also will be asked to approve a $69.3 million school budget.

That’s a lot of cash.

But just 285 registered voters attended the school deliberative session last week, less than 2 percent of the town’s 19,004 voters.

The town deliberative session was even less popular. Just 87 voters, less than 1 percent, attended that session.

Picture that empty auditorium and replicate it across Southern New Hampshire over the past two weeks, as New Hampshire voters work their way through their version of that antique New England institution, the annual town meeting.

In Windham, the percentages were nearly identical, less than 1 percent attendance at the town session, less than 2 percent for the school. Ditto in Pelham.

Derry has a tax rate of $31.49, up 3.2 percent over last year

When Derry property owners get their tax bills, there’s a collective groan.

Most of that tax bill goes to support local schools. Voters think they’re spending too much on education, taxing some of them right out of town.

Of Derry’s total staggering tax rate, the biggest bite of the apple comes from education taxes — $17.34 local and $2.62 state.

So, when voters were invited to discuss the proposed spending plan Saturday morning and ask their elected and hired officials to explain what all those tax dollars were getting them, just over 1 percent of the town’s 20,115 registered voters showed up.

It was even sorrier in neighboring Londonderry.

Less than 1 percent of that town’s 15,944 registered voters showed up for the school’s deliberative session Friday and the town’s deliberative session the following morning.

Look at the ballots in both towns for the upcoming March elections. Most races are hardly that.

Many open positions have just one candidate, some have none at all.

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