$65M city budget given OK


LACONIA — The City Council adopted the 2016-2017 municipal budget this week. Leaving the school district budget unchanged, councilors put the finishing touches to the city budget by shuffling money between line items and tapping into reserve accounts without adding to the bottom line of the spending plan City Manager Scott Myers presented in March.

The grand total appropriation of $64,923,258 represents an increase of $880,506, or 1.4 percent, in the municipal budget. Total revenues from sources other than property taxes rose 0.9 percent to $26,927,422. And the total amount to be raised by property taxes rose by $705,421, or 1.8 percent, to $38,055,836.

The total city appropriation of $23,850,943 represents an increase of $1,045,482, or 4.6 percent, while revenues from sources other than property taxes rose $576,661, or 8.1 percent to $7,665,275. With the the increased revenues, the council was able to spend more than the tax cap would indicate while budgeting within the limits it imposes on the amount to be raised by property taxes. 

The total school appropriation rose slightly, from $37,985,778 to $37,994,497. School revenues shrank by more than $680,000 with a reduction in state aid, while expenses, particularly the cost of special education and health insurance premiums rose by nearly $1 million, requiring some $1.2 million in reduced expenditures to budget within the bounds of the tax cap.

City Manager Scott Myers said Tuesday that since the value of new construction is expected to increase the total assessed valuation by at least $32 million, from $1,883,868,173 to $1,915,868,173, the increase in the budget is projected to add 3 cents to the property tax rate, raising it from $22.20 to $22.23 per $1,000 of assessed value.

Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3), who chairs the Finance Committee, presented a series of motions specifying the adjustments to the budget agreed among the councilors at a work session two weeks ago. Altogether, the council transferred $131,000 from proposed appropriations for street repairs, salaries and overtime wages for firefighters, and debt service on a borrowing to repair the downtown parking garage. An equal amount was applied to appropriate $10,000 to treat milfoil, $60,000 to replace radios for the Fire Department, $30,000 to study downtown parking and $1,000 to design a city flag, while the appropriation for the senior center was increased by $5,000. The council added $25,000 the contingency account in anticipation of defraying expenses incurred should the city seek to purchase the former Laconia State School property on North Main Street.

At the same time, the council agreed to transfer another $254,000 drawn from reserve accounts to provide $78,000 for restoring the tennis courts at Leavitt Park, $15,000 for revitalizing playgrounds, $15,000 for installing bleachers at the softball field at Memorial Park. $35,000 for funding the city's 125th anniversary celebration, $60,000 to replenish the salary line in the Fire Department budget and $16,000 to restore the funding for street repairs. And, at the request of Councilor Bob Hamel (Ward 5) added another $10,000 to repair windows at Laconia High School.

The city budget funds a 2.5 percent cost-of-living adjustment for city employees and a 9.71 percent increase in health insurance contributions. It also includes $1,500,000, an increase of $100,000, for street repairs along with another $275,000 for bridge, sidewalk, guardrail and drainage maintenance and improvements. The budget includes the principal and interest payments on two borrowings, one of $1 million to fund the reconstruction of Lakeside Avenue at The Weirs and another of $300,000 to fund improvements to the storm drains on Messer Street north of the Winnipesaukee River.

Myers originally proposed borrowing $3 million to fund structural repairs to the downtown parking garage. However, the council discarded the proposal and instead applied the principal and interest payment of $30,000 to fund the work of committee that will be convened to study downtown parking. Myers said that, apart from routine maintenance, nothing will be spent to overcome the deficiencies at the parking garage and the top deck will remain closed.

Woman watches as her stolen car is crashed

LACONIA — A Lyford Street woman and a Laconia Police officer watched as a man who had allegedly just stolen a woman's car drove away and crashed it into a tree Tuesday.

Police said they were called to the Jackson Street area for a suspicious man, but when they drove down Lyford Street a woman flagged them down and told them her car had just been stolen by a man identified later as Ronald R. Johnson, 31, of Old Prescott Hill Road in Laconia.

The victim said Johnson allegedly told he he had a gun.

The woman and the officer watched as Johnson drove away and crashed the car into a tree. He was unharmed in the crash.

Johnson refused bail and will be arraigned in the Belknap County Superior Court Wednesday at 1:30 p.m.

– Gail Ober

Laconia man held on $100,000 bail, charged with attempted murder


LACONIA — A Messer Street man who allegedly stabbed his sister's boyfriend in the head twice at a Tilton motel has been charged with one count of attempted second-degree murder and one count of first-degree assault.

07-13 Jason FordFord

Jason Ford, 31, of 106 Messer St. is being held on $100,000 cash-only bail after turning himself in to Tilton Police Monday night.

According to affidavits to support probable cause, Ford's sister and her boyfriend were in a motel room at the Rodeway Inn on Laconia Road when they heard a knock at the door. Ford's sister told police she answered because she thought a friend was stopping by.

She said her brother, Jason Ford, pushed her aside, jumped on top of the bed and attacked her boyfriend with what she initially thought were his fists, but learned almost immediately that he had been using a knife.

Ford then left, although both his sister and the victim had differing accounts on whether Ford was alone.

When police arrived, they said the victim was covered in blood and walked toward them with his hands in the air. After police determined he was the victim, he was taken by ambulance to Lakes Region General Hospital.

Police said Ford's sister had been drinking and said she didn't want to believe her brother could have done such a thing, but said Ford may blame her boyfriend because she had started drinking again.

Police obtained a warrant to search the hotel room and found blood on the pillows and comforters but did not recover a knife.

Following the police interview with Ford's sister, they learned the victim had been released from the hospital and a New Hampshire State Trooper brought him to the Tilton Police station for an interview.

He told them he was in the room with his girlfriend and heard the knock on the door. He said the next thing he knew, a man who was allegedly Jason Ford began attacking him. He told police he was afraid for his life and just tried to cover himself. He said he didn't understand why it happened.

The victim gave police permission to access his medical records and allowed them to photograph his head wound and other injuries. Police noticed his shirt was covered in blood and he had a laceration on the top left part of his head.

The complaint for attempted second-degree murder filed in Superior Court on Tuesday says that Jason Ford "took a substantial step toward the commission of (second-degree murder) by reckless stabbing the victim in the head and "manifesting an extreme indifference to the value of human life."

The complaint for first-degree assault says he "knowingly" caused the victim bodily injury by using a knife.

The state and Jason Ford's defense attorney, Jesse Friedman, agreed to the $100,000 cash bail; however, Friedman reserved the right to argue that bail at a future date. Friedman said Tuesday that Ford didn't do the things for which he is accused.