Shall the Town of Hampton vote to change the percentage distribution of Franchise Fees received from the Cable TV provider as voted under Article 16 of the 2013 Annual Town Meeting so that 100% (instead of 25%) of the funds received from the Franchise Fees are placed in the Hampton Cable TV Local Revolving Fund and are allowed to accumulate from year to year, and shall not be considered to be part of the Town’s unassigned fund balance in accordance with the provisions of RSA 31:95-h as previously voted? (Majority vote required)
What it means: Since around the year 2000, there is a Cable Franchise Fee added to each cable customer’s bill to the tune of around 2.6%. This money is turned over to the Town. Around 25% of this money has historically been used to fund Channel 22 and the balance went to the General Fund to offset taxes. With the recent creation of Chanel 13 to support SAU 90, the Board of Selectmen felt that the percentage should be increased to around 40% to support technology acquisition and upkeep for both Channel 22 and Channel 13. At Deliberative Session, this percentage was changed from 40% to 100%.
Those in favor say: The rationale by those who changed the percentage was that the amount of the fee that was not dedicated to a specific purpose (historically the 75% that went to the General Fund) could be considered a tax, not something New Hampshire residents want to see. Those seeking to amend the Article from 40% to 100% felt that all of the money should be for a specific purpose, or else should not be collected at all.
Those against say: The franchise fee is equal to about $328,000 per year which is much more than needed to acquire and maintain technology for the two stations. Once that money is allocated to the Cable Fund, it cannot be touched for any other reason. If we want to reduce the amount of money collected via the Cable Franchise Fee (to avoid the “tax” issue), we need to wait for the current contract between Comcast and the Town of Hampton to expire, and negotiate different terms going forward. No one can change the fee prior to the contract expiration. In the meantime, to put that much money into the Cable Fund when it is not needed there does not make much sense.
Fiscal Impact: No tax impact.