LACONIA — Belknap County Commissioners held an all-day work session on the building of the 2015 county budget Friday and came up with a revised proposal which will meet the goal set by the county convention of reducing the proposed increase in the amount to be raised by property taxes from 10 percent to 2 percent.
Last week convention Chairman Frank Tilton called for reducing the amount to be raised in taxes for the proposed $27.3 million county budget by $1.1 million and asked the commissioners to come up with $400,000 in reductions after the convention identified over $700,000 in salary and health insurance cuts.
Commissioner Dave DeVoy said that the commissioners on Friday accepted the convention's proposed payroll and health insurance budget cut numbers, which amounted to a $749,000, but added back $335,000 in expenses, most of which came through increasing the contingency line by $510,000.
DeVoy said commissioners made that change in contingency in order to keep department budgets lean but allow for unknown or unanticipated projects and costs without resorting to the need for supplemental appropriations.
Revenue projections were increased by $750,000 by commissioners, with $650,000 of that coming in the nursing home budget, which commissioners discussed at length Friday with Nursing Home Administrator Mathew Logue.
Commissioners DeVoy and Hunter Taylor (Commission Chairman Richard Burchell was not present) were told by Logue that because state funding through the Department of Health and Human Services is uncertain at this time it was pretty much a guessing game as to what the county can expect.
That prompted commissioners to say that they think that the legislature should press for full state funding at recent levels and not pass along tax increases to the county.
The increased revenue projections, minus the $335,000 in added expenses, allowed the commissioners to come up with a $400,000 adjustment in the proposed budget.
The revised budget proposal will be submitted to the county convention when it meets at 6 p.m. tonight at the Belkap County Complex. The meeting will be preceded by a 5 p.m. meeting of the convention's Executive Committee at which commissioners will present requests for about $60,000 in budget transfers to pay the county's unpaid legal bills for 2014.
Commissioners decided Friday to drop two proposed capital projects; $60,000 for replacement of windows at the Belknap County Courthouse and $75,000 for a time and attendance system for the Belknap County complex. Also cut from the budget was $27,600 from the IT Department for an electronic medical records project for the nursing home.
Other reductions included $45,000 for electricity and $14,000 for fuel at the nursing home.
Among the increased expenses is $39,923 for the Corrections Department to hire a consultant to produce a program for a new community corrections plan supported by commissioners.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 17 February 2015 01:08
By Thomas P. Caldwell
HILL — Concerned about a potential $2.13 increase in the 2015 property tax rate from a school budget that shows a 10.61 percent increase from current-year spending, a Hill Budget Committee majority nevertheless endorsed the figure following a public hearing last week.
Gerard Desrochers made the motion to accept the Hill School Board's budget proposal, noting that an increase in tuition accounts for $191,541 of the $204,134 increase over the current year. "My rationale at this point," he said, "is that the School Board presented a fairly reasonable budget."
Selectman Mike Brady disagreed, saying school costs continue to rise and it is time to take steps to contain those costs. "We're looking at a $2 budget increase for 250 students," he said. "The school has to be operated in the proper way."
Brady noted that Hill used to operate with a teaching principal, and he said there is no problem having a teacher instruct a combined classroom when class sizes are around 10 students in the elementary school.
Principal Jay Lewis said parents appreciate being able to meet with their principal, which had been a problem when Hill had a teaching principal. He also noted that there is a certification issue: "I'm (certified as a) highly qualified principal, but not a highly qualified teacher."
As for combining classes, Lewis noted that, with the new educational standards, Hill already is facing problems with the one combined classroom it has. "The way the new standards are set up, it's very grade-level-specific. We have to be creative with our schedule now, but to do it with another class, we don't have enough staff."
He also noted that the smaller classes are not consecutive, so it would mean combining classes that are separated by a grade in between, posing an even greater challenge.
The higher tuition results from an increase in Franklin's budget combined with a decreasing enrollment in city schools. Voters will be deciding whether to end its Authorized Regional Enrollment Area agreement in Franklin and, instead, send its students in grades 7 through 12 to the Newfound Area School District, but although the tuition amount would be less, Hill would be obligated to pay Franklin for lost building aid, making total costs comparable, whichever district the voters choose.
If they choose Newfound, Hill parents would have the option of continuing to send students currently attending Franklin schools to the city, although they would be responsible for transportation.
The latest figures show Hill sending 22 students to the middle school and 44 to the high school.
During the public hearing, parents questioned the Franklin tuition figure, noting that the Franklin School Board had offered to open up the AREA agreement to renegotiate tuition using Newfound's formula, which would save Hill some $100,000 in tuition. The school board noted that doing so would take time so they would not have an agreement in time for next year, and said there was no guarantee that Franklin's offer would hold.
Many had questions about the difference between an AREA agreement and a tuition agreement, with the school board responding that a tuition agreement provides more flexibility than an AREA agreement because it does not require involvement by the state Board of Education.
"Either way," said Desrochers, "the receiving district holds all the cards."
Some parents brought up the fact that Sant Bani School in Sanbornton is closing its high school after this year and they said Hill parents who currently send their children to the private school will be looking for alternate placement, which could increase Hill's tuition costs.
Lewis said Sant Bani reports that there would be at most four students coming back to Hill if the parents did not choose another private school.
Responding to Brady's concerns, School Board Chair Shelly Henry said, "I understand the tax rate is going up, but I'd hate to see education suffer because of it."
"When do you actually take steps to reduce costs?" Brady responded.
The Budget Committee voted to support the $2,128,133 budget as proposed by a vote of 8-4, then went on to discuss the separate warrant articles.
While agreeing with Article 6 to transfer $7,000 from the school district's unexpended fund balance to an expendable trust fund for special education, the Budget Committee cut a similar $7,000 expenditure in half in Article 7, that would add to money to the building and maintenance expendable trust fund.
The budget unanimously supported Article 9 which would close out a fund for heating and transfer the $365 remaining to the building and maintenance expendable trust fund.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 February 2015 01:13
GILMANTON — Town Administrator Arthur Capello said yesterday that the town, its insurer and general contractor Conneston Construction, Inc. have agreed on $137,000 for repairs to the Academy building cause by a broken sprinkler pipe in January.
Capello said that with the agreement in place, crews have been working for about a week and he is optimistic employees could be back in the building by the end of March.
He said the entire hardwood floor in the attic needed replacing as did the ceiling and many of the electrical fixtures. On the main level, the ceiling and carpeting are being replaced as are the computer ports and insulation.
"The inside of the building in literally being painted from top to bottom," said Capello yesterday.
He said the town will get a new server, new computers and a new copier has been ordered.
Capello said he and selectmen are very happy with the pace and the quality of the work done so far by the contractors.
Capello said selectmen will be meeting Thursday at the Gilmanton School following the public hearing to revoke SB-2 that is scheduled for 6 p.m. One of the topics will be additional insulation in the roof and a few items that have little to do with the flood but should be addressed while the ceilings and wall are still open.
He said there is some money in a non-capital building maintenance account that could be used for these items should selectmen vote to have them done.
The Gilmanton Academy was heavily damaged by a frozen and broken pipe in the attic sprinkler system at 10 p.m. on January 11. Water cascaded through the attic to the third floor meeting room and down into the first floor offices, damaging or destroying all of the computers and furnishings in the building.
All of the town records were backed up and the town archives were in a secure vault in the basement and were undamaged.
Town employees have been working from a modular unit behind the Academy Building.
CAPTION: CCI project manager Ron Downes talks with Town Administrator Arthur Capello in the main room of the Gilmanton Academy builidng. Repairs are ongoing and officials hope to be back in the building by the end of March. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Gail Ober)
Last Updated on Saturday, 14 February 2015 12:59
GILMANTON — The live-in girlfriend of a Bean Road man who was found guilty of reckless conduct with a deadly weapon — a firearm — has petitioned the Belknap County Superior Court to get her gun back.
Paula Pelchat, of 8 Bean Road, has asked for Judge James O'Neill to return her .40-caliber Sig Sauer to her. She said the gun was hers and was purchased in her name.
In her handwritten letter to the court, Pelchat said she understands that her boyfriend Jeffrey Sargent cannot have access to firearms as the result of his conviction and told the court she was giving the gun to her father, who lives at a different address.
The gun was confiscated from Sargent on April 16, 2014 after he fired it twice in the air to scare two people from his property.
Sargent rents the property and two of his landlords friends had been given permission to bury one of their recently deceased pets on his property.
When the couple arrived, Sargent, who was outside his home at the time, went inside, grabbed the gun, and fired two warning shots into the air.
Police recovered two spent .40-caliber rounds and Sargent gave them the gun that had 11 of 13 rounds left in the magazine. He said he never felt as though he was in any danger and just wanted the people to leave the property.
Sargent was given a suspended prison sentence.
Deputy Belknap County Attorney Carley Ahern said she had no objection to returning the gun to Pelchat. Gilmanton Police couldn't be reached for comment.
Last Updated on Saturday, 14 February 2015 12:43
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