Belmont Town Meeting Saturday to consider raises for police, fire

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

BELMONT — An an agreement with the police union and the local government to restructure the pay scale will cost taxpayers about $250,000 over the next three years if warrant Article 18 is passed by voters this year.

Belmont voters will discuss this and other warrant articles at the deliberative session of Town Meeting this Saturday at 10 a.m. at Belmont High School.

Town Administrator Jeanne Beaudin said the pay scale restructuring came as the result of some research done by the town and the union representatives into how much other officers in the area and in similar sized communities are earning.

"We found we were at very low side of that scale," said Beaudin.

The warrant article is broken into to columns so voters can understand how much of the increase is raises and how much are increases driven by insurance costs and state retirement contributions.

For the first year, the salary increases are to $37,540 or an average of $2,681 per union officer, of which there are 14. In the second year of the contract, each officer can expect on average an additional $2,167 each; and in year 3, each officer can expect an average increase of $2,140. On average, each union police officer can expect a total $7,000 raise over the three years of the contract.

Insurance and retirement costs are expected to increase about $10,700 in year one, and about $9,000 additionally each year for the final two years of the contract or through 2019.

The Board of Selectmen and the Budget Committee support the passage of the money portions of the proposed contract.

"We support our Police Department and support them making comparable wages as do those in other departments," said Beaudin.

The town has also negotiated three-year contracts with the Fire Department and the Public Works Department. Salaries for the 10 union firefighters will cost taxpayers about $67,244 over the next three years, or an average of $6,700 in pay increases per firefighter.

Benefits including the health insurance and contributions to the state retirement system are expected to rise by $4,420 in the first year of the contract, an additional $5,600 in year two, and an additional $4,960 in 2019 or the last year of the contract.

The voters are also being asked to approve the money portions of a new Department of Public Works contract that, if approved, will increase wages for 10 DPW union workers about $72,573 over the three-year term of the contact or about $7,200 per employee.

Benefits are expected to go up by $2,982 in the first year of the three year contact and an additional $1,577 for the second year and an additional $2,012 in year 3.

Beaudin said the same pay scales as before are being used for Fire Department and Public Works employees, and that the increases requested are for step and cost-of-living increases.

The selectmen and the Budget Committee support passage of the money portions of each of the union contract requests. Each warrant article is also accompanied by a follow-up article that, if they fail, will allow a special Town Meeting to reconsider the vote on the money portions of the contract.

Article 9, if passed, will allow all veteran, their spouses or surviving spouses to take a $500 tax credit of their property taxes. This expands the tax credit to all veterans who served at least 90 days of active duty and who was honorably discharged or separated from the military.

Article 10 proposes to take the first $166,400 of the ambulance billings and direct them to the general fund to pay for certain operating expenses. The town has been supporting this expense for the past five years.

Article 11 seeks to spend $119,482 on a replacement communications system. The town is not asking for any new tax money and proposes to take $69,482 from the fire/ambulance equipment fund and $50,000 from the capital reserve account established for this purpose in 2005.

Article 12 seeks to spend $60,776 for the second year's payment on a new pumper truck. The money is proposed to come from the fire/ambulance equipment fund.

Articles 13 and 14 seek to raise $40,000 fro a cab-and-chassis forestry vehicle and $15,000 for an all-terrain vehicle for the Fire Department. All of the money is to come from the fire/ambulance revenue account.

Article 15 proposes to spend a total of $20,604.15 from the John M. Sargent Trust Fund for various Belmont groups including the Boy and Girl Scouts, the Old Home Day Committee, and two of the town's food pantries.

Article 17 is the general appropriation warrant article for a proposed annual 2017 operating budget of $7,586,951. The default budget is $7,563,786.

Article 24 through 33 seek to send various amounts of money into the town's capital reserve and maintenance funds that include the town bridge repair capital fund, the property revaluation capital fund and the general cemetery maintenance fund.

Articles 34 and 35 seek to spend $232,710 for the operation and maintenance of the town water distribution and treatment system and $538,037 for the town's sewer collection and disposal system. Users fees will pay for these expenditures that are both recommended by the Budget Committee.

Articles 36 and 37 propose spending $4,500 on the Heritage Fund and $5,000 to be placed in the Village Rail Spur Trail Capital Fund established in 2016.

While voters may amend the wording and dollar amounts presented in the articles at the deliberative session of Town Meeting, the final vote won't be taken until March 14, along with election of town and school officials.

Gilmanton faces $47,000 hike in tuition pact with Gilford

By DAVID CARKHUFF/THE LACONIA DAILY SUN

GILMANTON — An area tuition agreement that allows Gilmanton students to attend Gilford High School is expected to increase by nearly $47,000 in the upcoming school year.
"Based on what the Budget Committee has approved, we're looking at a 1.49 percent increase," said Christine Hayes, business administrator for Gilmanton School District.
This amounts to $46,756 in additional spending on the tuition agreement.
The agreement is a legal obligation with six more years to go. Next year's rise in cost remains tentative, Hayes cautioned.
"We don't have final figures from Gilford yet. We won't until after their deliberative session," Hayes said. "But we're going with what we have, based on what they've given us. It's according to the formula in the area agreement, but it does result in an increase this year again, which is not unusual."
A committee in Gilmanton is looking into the subject of the tuition agreement.
Gilmanton School Superintendent John Fauci emphasized that the committee's mission does not imply any dissatisfaction with Gilford.
"Our school board has asked us to look at options," Fauci said. "They're exploring options. Gilford, who we work very closely with now and have a good relationship with, is still an option."
The High School Options Committee has met three or four times and has scheduled another meeting this spring to continue the conversation, Fauci said.
"They're exploring options around things like cost and other factors that would determine where our kids would go next," Fauci said.
"Any and all options are on the table. There is no decision that has been made," he said.
The 13-member committee includes parents, teachers, school board members, Budget Committee members, selectmen, Planning Board members and others with an interest in the topic.
"It always comes up because a third of our budget is what we pay for our high school students," Fauci said.
The 2016-2017 tuition rate for 158 high school students attending Gilford High School is $18,744 per student, according to figures in the proposed Gilmanton School District budget. The previous year, the rate was $17,742. Total tuition cost for 2016-2017 was an estimated $3.138 million, compared with $2.856 million the previous year.

The average cost per pupil in the state as calculated by the state Department of Education was $15,068.46 for high school students in the 2015-16 school year.
The deliberative session of Gilford School District Meeting is at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 9, in the Gilford High School Auditorium.
The deliberative session of Gilmanton School District Meeting is on Saturday, Feb. 11, at 10 a.m., at the Gilmanton School. Voting day is Tuesday, March 14 for both.

GYRL to appeal to voters for funding

02 03 gilmanton library

Operators of the Gilmanton Year Round Library raise the balance of funds through donations, grants and fundraising efforts but hope voters will support an article on this year's town warrant. (David Carkhuff/The Laconia Daily Sun)

By DAVID CARKHUFF/THE LACONIA DAILY SUN

GILMANTON — On Saturday, backers of the Gilmanton Year-Round Library will hope to avoid a repeat of last year, when voters decided not to fund the library.
But ultimately, the community will be the one to decide the fate of the library, one way or the other, according to Chris Schlegel, member of the board of directors.
The Gilmanton Year-Round Library, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, relied on fundraising last year after a 2016 warrant article was narrowly voted down by 51 to 49 percent (523-505).
Article 24 on this year's warrant is a petitioned article to raise $48,500 for the library. Tax impact is 11 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation, or $22 on a $200,000 property.
The deliberative session of Town Meeting is Saturday, Feb. 4, at 10 a.m., at the Gilmanton School.
A survey performed by The Survey Center at the University of New Hampshire last summer gave a snapshot response, with about 20 percent or 343 of the 1,715 surveys returned, but some ambiguity resulted about whether the town should own the library.
"A large part of the reason that we did the survey that we did with the UNH Survey Center was to see what kind of support there would be with that," Schlegel said. "What we got back from the survey was actually mixed. If it was going to be town owned, they did want to see a 501(c)(3) partnership, which is what we are thinking. I do think it's a possibility that that could happen at some point. We do have support. Town officials are quite supportive of the library right now."
But Schlegel added, "It would have to happen through the community, not just town officials."
This year's town vote, Schlegel said, is "very important."
"In order to operate as a full-service library, which is our mission, we really do need that funding," she said.
The request for $48,500 would supplement a total operating budget of $77,833, she said.

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