Seabrook 2019 Tax Rate is Set

The Board of Selectmen today announced the Seabrook Tax Rate for 2019. That rate is $15.75, a 50 cent decline from last years $16.25. This rate decrease is in fact a tax decrease for the taxpayers of Seabrook, as the total dollars raised through property taxation will decline from 2018, a truly remarkable figure. (Property tax collection will decline by $445,693.)

The property tax decrease is driven by a 43 cent decrease in the Town rate. This decline is largely attributable to the policy decision made by the Board of Selectmen on water and sewer rates. Management identified a $2 million dollar subsidy going from taxpayers to ratepayers, and Selectmen voted to end that subsidy, beginning in 2019. In setting this rate the Board recognized approximately $1.7 million in additional local revenue.

The Board of Selectmen have additionally held the rate of discretionary spending to 2% or less for several cycles. This has also had a positive impact on the relative tax burden in Seabrook. The overall percentage of the tax levy paid by NextEra continues to decline. In FY 2019, with this rate, NextEra will be approximately 29% of the total tax levy, down from 42% in 2014. The Board of Selectmen have had to manage this decline while continuing to maintain services and keep the tax rate stable. NextEra is currently under a three year tax agreement with Seabrook covering 2018, 2019, and 2020 that is worth $36 million over the term of the agreement.

The Board of Selectmen have made a policy decision to build fund balance, which has been a principal way the “NextEra Shift” has been managed. There will be another post examining the history of fund balance in Seabrook for the past six years.

Great job by Assessor Angie Silva, Finance Manager Carrie Fowler, Deputy Town Manager Kelly O’Connor, and the entire staff in doing the work needed to get this rate approved by the New Hampshire DRA.

I have attached the reports I provided to the Board covering the water and sewer subsidy for FY 2018.

Press Release – 2019 Tax Rate-prelim

Water Report 2018 Draft

Sewer Report 2018 Draft

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Harpooning a Sacred Cow- “Strategic Plans Are Rarely Strategic-Or Effective”

Professor Wyatt Wells recently offered a column in the Wall Street Journal titled “Strategic Plans Are Rarely Strategic-Or Effective.” Professor Wells is most certainly articulating a point of view that has entered many a mind when sitting through an interminable “strategic planning” session that will produce a set of what the good professor calls “bromides.” Does he have a point? While there is no question that he is painting with a broad brush there can be no doubt that much of the criticism is valid.

Professor Wells, at Auburn University (Montgomery,) has just gone through this exercise, which likely prompted the commentary.The University recently commissioned and completed its Strategic Plan, which gets harpooned thoroughly. For those familiar with these types of efforts the work product sounds very familiar.

In its statement of principles, AUM’s plan asserts that the university seeks to “provide quality and diverse educational opportunities,” offering a “student-centered experience” with “excellence as our standard.” These are more specific than Google’s old mantra, “Don’t be evil,” but not much. Presumably every institution of higher learning shares these goals—none would boast that “adequacy is our standard.”

Professor Wells moves to business, pointing out that many business strategic plans suffer from the same problems he identifies in the Auburn plan.

Likewise, companies seek to “enhance consumers’ experience” as well as “enhance morale among employees,” as if most of their competitors believe that aggravating customers and frustrating staffers is the key to success. The word “enhance” appears over and over because it allows planners to avoid specifics and ignore where their institution stands. A company with a good reputation and another that customers are deserting in droves can both “enhance consumers’ experience,” but their needs are very different. Such statements connote no more than a desire to do better, providing neither standards nor priorities.

Professor Wells has identified the problem inherent in many such efforts, which is a desire to stick to the most general items, not address core issues facing the enterprise, and most importantly not to offer solutions that do not have 100% backing, which leads us to bromide land. While it can be said that such efforts may be team building exercises masquerading as strategic planning serious people with real work waiting tend to get frustrated at the results, and the time burn that produced those results.

Professor Wells has had a little bit of fun, and likely a little vengeance for the time burn, on the University effort. Unfortunately this type of effort is all too common in strategic planning. Avoiding difficult choices, refusing to frame enterprise problems while identifying specific solutions to those problems, will bring strong internal support for the effort, and a plan that will accumulate a healthy coating of dust as it sits unread on a shelf. Enterprises are not enhanced by these exercises, but many consultants derive some great fees for boiler plate product.

Forward planning is vitally critical for both business and government. Whether it be problem specific, or a more general outlook (financial forecasting)good planning requires specifics issues to be identified, and potential solutions devised and discussed. Professor Wells has identified the wrong way to do strategic planning, but doing it correctly has never been more important. Let us ensure that our strategic planning avoids the serious problem of “orotund verbiage.” Thank you Professor Wells.

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Methuen Mayoral Results Unofficial

Kannan 2666

Perry 6386

Congratulations and best wishes to new Mayor Neil Perry.

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Seabrook Harbor Dredge Information

The U.S. Army Corps has provided the attached information on the Seabrook/Hampton Harbor Dredge, ongoing now. The Flyer is below the picture.

Hampton Harbor Dredging – Flyer

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Governor Sununu Brings New Local Aid to Seabrook

Governor Chris Sununu visited Seabrook last week to deliver additional local aid to the Town, bringing unrestricted local aid as well as additional school aid in the amount of $643,139. A big thank you to the Governor and the Legislature for all of their hard work on the state budget that brought the additional aid to Seabrook.

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A Look at “1941: The Year Germany Lost the War” by Andrew Nagorski

1941: The Year Germany Lost the War1941: The Year Germany Lost the War by Andrew Nagorski
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A nice look at what author Andrew Nagorski considers to be the pivotal year of World War II, 1941, where the tide of war turned against the German war machine. Hard to argue that 1941 saw the events and decisions made on all sides that led to the eventual defeat of Germany and the destruction of Hitlerism.

For those that have studied the war there is not much new here, but despite that the book is a good read that brings some excellent perspective to the war. That perspective does include the difficulties faced by Churchill, as well as by FDR, in trying to keep the British afloat as they battled alone against Nazi Germany. We get the flavor of the political difficulties faced by FDR in trying to help the British without formally entering the war, with a good look at some of the diplomacy involved, including the very interesting interactions between British, American, and Soviet diplomats before the German invasion of the U.S.S.R.

Despite the broad look at the U.S. and British the main focus, as it should be, is on the decision by Hitler to invade the Soviet Union in 1941. It was arguably the worst decision of the war by Hitler, but it was most certainly not the only strategically flawed decision he made. The book looks at the run-up to that decision, including the German-Soviet treaty that allowed the invasion of Poland to proceed by both Hitler and Stalin. Hitler’s move was tactically and strategically brilliant, allowing him to concentrate his military power to the west to face the French and British threat without having to worry about the Soviets. The book gives us a look at the mindset of Stalin in this period. Stalin essentially waived off the crescendo of warnings on the true intentions of Hitler, even shipping supplies called for under the treaty right up to the point of the German invasion. This is the true crux of the book and it offers a great overview of the central players in that tragedy.

Most everybody agrees that Hitler’s decision to invade the Soviet Union was a strategic blunder, but we also get a look at the tactical errors that sealed the Germans fate. Hitler delayed the invasion to deal with a government coup in Yugoslavia that enraged him, and while some have downplayed the military significance of that delay I am not in that group. It was a major error. The initial vast military success of the German invasion brought to Hitler some tactical choices about the deployment of forces that he handled poorly, breaking off the drive to Moscow to lend support to military efforts to capture economically important areas to the South. Hitler’s indecision on goals, and his overriding of his generals strong objections to delaying the drive to Moscow while he had the strategic initiative doomed the Germans to ultimate defeat. I believe the author did a very good job of covering this critical period, with a strong overview of the decisions that ultimately determined the course of the war.

Hitler, in addition to the ample errors of 1941, simply ignored the pre-war warnings of German economists, who informed him that a long war would simply not be sustainable for Germany. Hitler ignored those warnings, and in fact the author shows us that Hitler turned those arguments on their head, arguing that fast and decisive action was needed to avoid economic calamity for Germany. He was wrong on that score right from the start. From the book:

“In Mein Kampf, Hitler unwittingly identified another one of his failings that manifested itself in his preparations for war: his disregard for the economic underpinnings needed for a successful military strategy. “Economics is only of second- or third-rate importance, and the primary role falls to factors of politics, ethics, morality, and blood,” he wrote. Hermann Göring, the head of the Luftwaffe, who was already considered the second most powerful man in the country, echoed those sentiments in a meeting with army officers in the summer of 1938. “The armed forces should not concern themselves with the fate of the economy,” he told them, since he had “sole responsibility” for such matters. “The collapse of parts of the economy was irrelevant. Ways will be found.” Both before the outbreak of the war and in its early days, other members of Hitler’s entourage, including within the military, attempted to warn the German leader that he was charting a dangerous course. They feared that his dismissing economic considerations, along with underestimating the strength and political will of Germany’s likely opponents, could prove to be a fatal combination. Even Göring expressed similar concerns on occasion. But all of them would be overruled again and again.”

Nagorski, Andrew. 1941: The Year Germany Lost the War (p. 21). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

Hitler’s disregard of economics was not consistent, but when he did show concern it was on a tactical level, with not nearly enough concern or understanding of the strategic disaster awaiting Germany from a long war. This refusal to consider economics or figures not to his liking was shown when Hitler was faced with numbers indicating a very large Soviet military production capacity. He simply refused to accept numbers on Soviet tank and airplane capacity that cut against his own thoughts on the matter. His own thoughts were badly misinformed.

Nagorski has produced a very interesting book, especially for those who are approaching the subject for the first time. The war, and Hitlerism, have begun to fade in our collective memory. I hope that never happens, as the lessons learned and the human disaster that unfolded from the Nazi drive for world domination should never be forgotten. I have begun to re-read, after many years, the William Shirer epic, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.

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Seabrook Harbor Dredging Project to Begin

We have received an update on the Seabrook/Hampton Harbor Dredge project calendar. Naturally the schedule is subject to weather, but the Army Corps and the contractor are in place, with work scheduled to begin this week. This $4.6 million dollar federal project has been a major priority for our entire region, as harbor shoaling has made safe boating passage very difficult. Thanks to Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Senator Maggie Hassan, and Congressman Chris Pappas for all of their work in securing the federal money necessary for the Army Corps to proceed. The Seabrook Board of Selectmen have been actively involved in the planning for this project, offering strong and vocal support for the fishing and tourism industries that rely so heavily on the ability to navigate the Harbor. Thanks to Coral Siligato and the Army Corps, and the New Hampshire DES, who have worked so hard to make this project a reality. The below is from the Army Corps.

Dredging will begin in the Inner Harbor on the Seabrook side starting as soon as tomorrow 10/17/2019. Dredging of the Cross Channel, Seabrook Channel and Seabrook Anchorage will occur between 10/17/2019 likely through the end of December. Placement of the dredge material will be occurring first at the locations under the Route 1A Southern Bridge Abutment and then along Seabrook Beach and will continue through December. Placement at the Middle Ground Sand Flat (behind and within the existing composite sheet pile wall built in 2005), will occur approximately in the middle of November. Dredging of the Hampton Channel, Hampton Anchorage, and the State Anchorage is anticipated to occur between December through February 1, 2020 with placement at Hampton State Beach Park.

General Plan

Edit on October 23, 2019

It was great to have Senator Jeanne Shaheen in to look at the project as it has gotten started. Senator Shaheen and the entire legislative delegation worked very hard to deliver the resources necessary for the U.S. Army Corps to do this project.

Media coverage of the Dredge project.

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