Legal Q & A

Special Events: Whose Party Is This, Anyway?

As local officials, we are often asked for permission to use public facilities. This may involve indoor events, such as an anniversary party in the town hall, or an educational talk in the library, or an evening of training at the fire department. Outdoor events may involve use of sports or recreational facilities for adult league play, or a summer road race on local roads, a soccer or tennis camp operated by a private vendor on a public facility, or outdoor concerts at a local park. Most of these requests are routinely granted, because they add to the quality of community life.

Work Programs as Part of a Local Welfare Program – Are They Worth the Work?

As the economy continues to struggle, more and more people are finding it necessary to apply for local welfare assistance. This means that local assistance budgets are straining under the ever increasing case load of eligible applicants. Work programs for those receiving town assistance may be an effective way to recoup some of the expenses of the welfare program and allow assisted persons to learn job skills that may help them return to an income status and provide for themselves. If administered carefully, a work program can be a win-win proposition for the town.

Dogs and Cats: Some of the Laws Affecting Our Four-Legged Friends

Dogs are especially fortunate—at least that is how it must seem to the thousands of New Hampshire cats who, unlike their dog friends, do not get to experience the privilege of being licensed by their human owners. You see, while the law allows a municipality to require the licensing of cats it does not require licensing as it does for dogs. At just four months of age, a dog is eligible for an official license from the town or city it lives in and can proudly show off its shiny license tag to its less fortunate feline friends!

Local Property Tax Information: Public or Not?

In recent months, New Hampshire Town and City articles have examined aspects of New Hampshire’s Right to Know Law and other state laws and regulations that require certain information to be made public or kept confidential.

Many of the questions we receive involve the confidentiality of local property tax information. While much of that information is public, there are a few important exceptions of which local officials should be aware.

Special Event Permits: A Useful Tool

In the 1800s, it was not at all unusual for traveling revival meetings to go from town to town, setting up huge tents for outdoor events led by the famous preachers of the day. These events could be held over several days and brought hundreds of people together in one place to hear sermons and lectures. The circus was also popular for many years as traveling entertainment, moving from town to town, bringing hundreds of circus performers, workers and animals to put on the show and also visitors to town to see the show.

Mortgage Foreclosures and Property Tax Liens

In these difficult economic times, one of the impacts will surely be a rise in the number of mortgage foreclosures. When a foreclosure occurs, many things change, including the owner of the property, the occupant of the property and, sometimes, the use of the property. The tax collector and other local officials need to understand the impact of the event on their ability to actually enforce the property tax and water and sewer obligations assessed on the parcel.

Public Meetings and Freedom of Speech: When Do Citizens Have a Right to Speak?

In the months leading up to town meeting, public participation in local government reaches an annual peak. Citizens attend meetings of the board of selectmen, school board, budget committee and planning board and speak at public hearings on proposed budgets, bond issues and zoning ordinances. It all culminates in the discussions, deliberations and votes at the annual meetings. Participation is, of course, encouraged because the vitality of local government is measured by the level of public interest and involvement.

Multi-Year Contracts: When and How Are They Authorized?

Municipalities are set up to handle business one year at a time. They are governed by annual budgets and elect officials annually in towns and biennially in cities. So it’s not surprising that there is a good deal of uncertainty when it comes to authorizing contracts that will oblige a municipality to expend money for more than one year going forward. The most common examples are extended equipment leases and multi-year collective bargaining agreements (CBAs).

The Curious Case of ‘No Means No’

Every year, we advise governing bodies, budget committees and other town officials to carefully review the language of proposed warrant articles with the Department of Revenue Administration (DRA) prior to presenting the articles at the budgetary public hearing, creating the warrant, and presenting the articles to the town meeting or the deliberative session.

What’s in a Warrant Article? Nothing Extra, Please

Q. Who decides what goes on the warrant and how it appears?