Mutual Fire Aid formally asks to be dropped from 2014 county budget

LACONIA — The Lakes Region Mutual Fire Aid Association (LRMFAA) has notified the Belknap County Commission that it will no longer seek funding through Belknap County for the 11 communities in the county which are members of the association.
The letter, signed by LRMFAA Chief Jim Hayes and Deputy Chief John Beland, asked commissioners to remove the mutual fire aid appropriation line from the 2014 county budget and thanked the county for the cooperation over the nearly 40 years that the county has carried a portion of the mutual aid bill in its operating budget.
The letter said that mutual aid will now bill the 10 towns and the city of Laconia directly for their annual assessments, which will now change due to a difference in the formula used by the mutual aid for its 26 other member towns and that used by the county. The county assessments were based 100 percent on property values, whereas the Mutual Aid formula also takes population into account.
Based on this year's bill of $554,037 which was billed through the county tax, Alton paid $81,048, Barnstead $27,350, Belmont $34,381, Center Harbor $22,457, Gilford $88,631, Gilmanton $25,680, Laconia $106,731, Meredith $100,545, New Hampton $17,528, Sanbornton $22,072 and Tilton $27,614.
Billed directly, according to the formula applied by the LRMFAA, four towns would have paid less; Alton would have saved $18,922, Center Harbor $4,721, Gilford $14,326 and Meredith $25,445. The other seven which would have paid more were: Barnstead $9,206, Belmont $18,290, Gilmanton $6,237, Laconia $17,606, New Hampton $3,372, Sanbornton $4,527 and Tilton $4,176.
Earlier this year commissioners were notified by Meredith and Center Harbor that they would pay their mutual aid assessments directly, effectively ending the current system because there was no way the county could separate out the mutual aid funds from the rest of the the money the towns pay as part of their assessed share of the county budget.