Salem’s future is ours to make. In the March elections, voters will choose to elect a new selectmen, budget committee members, and new zoning and overlay plans that could change Salem forever. Salem has a lot of decisions to make, and we as voters of Salem should take our responsibility seriously.
In New Hampshire, we are weeks removed from the First in the Nation Presidential Primary. In the nominating contests that puts New Hampshire on the map, 6,478 Salem voters participated in the Republican Primary, while 4,035 Salem voters participated in the Democratic Primary. We should applaud our town for being so politically active in engaged. As of December 28, Salem had 19,739 registered voters. With 10,513 ballots cast on February 9, Salem had approximately 53.26% voter turnout. We should be pleased with a relatively high level of participation.
However, the numbers don’t look so peachy when compared to involvement in our March Town wide election. In the 2015 March town election, 3,307 votes were cast. The voter file published in April, which would have included any same day registrations during the March elections, shows that the town had 19,690 registered voters on April 1, three weeks after the last town election day. With those numbers, only approximately 16.80% voters participated in the March 2015 elections.
Salem is not a city. We do not have a mayor, a city council, and the different institutional practices found in a city form of government. In Salem, there is no one leader to vote on and to hold accountable — our town forms a community-based governing model, one that can be very successful at fulfilling the needs of the town. With the budget committee, our community elects members independent from the town or school board to build the municipal budget. Combined, our town and school budgets spend more than 100 million dollars a year. The crafting and construction of our municipal budgets requires a steady hand and a sound mind.
We should, at least, be equally concerned with who sits on our local boards and committees as we are with who the next President of the United States will be. The United States is a Federal Republic, and most power is kept within the various states as opposed to the Federal government. In New Hampshire, most of that state power is maintained by the towns, and local control is vibrant and dynamic here. As such, our local government has a lot of say and a lot of influence in the economic functions of our lives. Most of the property tax is comprised of local taxes, and the rate is overseen in conjunction between the Budget Committee, Selectman, and School Board. That budget gets sent to voters, and the people get to decide what Salem’s future looks like.
With so much power and responsibility confined to a committee elected when only a small fraction of registered voters go to the polls, it is important we make the right decisions. I believe our budget committee needs to be committed and concerned with not just the next budget, but the next ten. We need budget committee members who are committed to the long run in Salem, will look out for the town’s best interests, and invest and protect every dollar according to the best interests of the town. On March 8th, you have 2 votes for 3 year Budget Committee positions — cast one of your votes for D.J. Bettencourt.
D.J. is a proven Fiscal Conservative who has a solid track record of protecting taxpayers. D.J. understands that the best way to increase tax revenue for the town is through an expansion of the tax base, not through the raising and levying of taxation. D.J. is extremely invested in Salem’s future, having grown up here and is now building his own family here. Salem has multiple leadership positions and D.J. has already served our community through many different avenues — adding him to the Budget Committee puts Salem’s best interests first. Salem would be well guided by D.J.’s leadership and experience on the Budget Committee — please join me in supporting him.