Missing money? Belknap County budget at risk over revenue that may not materialize

Money from state for pensions, Gunstock revenue at issue


LACONIA — While seeking to forestall any increase on the property tax burden without further depleting an already shrunken fund balance, the Belknap County delegation has written a budget that by projecting revenue that will not be collected, has increased the risk of one or the other.
Rep. Marc Abear (R-Meredith), the principal architect of the budget, flatly declined to comment on the revenue projections.
The Belknap County Delegation has estimated revenues in the budget that include $290,810 representing an anticipated contribution from the state toward the employer contributions to the New Hampshire Retirement System to fund the pensions of county employees. These funds are unlikely to be forthcoming.

Moreover, the delegation inflated the anticipated contribution from the state by assuming it applied to all county employees. But, since the county employs no school teachers, it would have applied only to members of the Sheriff's Department and Corrections Department. County Administrator Debra Shackett calculated that that if the state were to contribute 15 percent funded, the county's share would only be discounted by $75,000, not $290,810.

Meanwhile, the delegation also appears to have overestimated the revenue it expects to receive from Gunstock Mountain Resort. When the current Memorandum of Understanding between the county and resort expired, the delegation asked for $100,000 in negotiating its renewal, but included $175,000 in revenue in its 2017 budget, leaving a shortfall of $75,000.

The delegation could acknowledge its error and submit revised revenue estimates to the New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration before it begins the process of setting the county tax rate in September. Shackett has calculated that correcting for the shortfall in revenue would increase that the budgeted amount to be raised by property taxes from $12,963,440 to $13,329,250, an increase of 2.74 percent.

Alternatively, by state statute, RSA 21-J:35, IV, provides that if, in the course of computing and setting the county tax rate, the Commissioner of Revenue Administration "finds that the estimated revenues included are inaccurate or inappropriate he shall adjust the estimates in question" and notify county officials of the changes.

Without changes to the revenue estimates, the county could end the year with a revenue shortfall that would reduce the money on hand. The fund balance stood near $3.4 million at the end of 2016. The delegation's budget applies half of that against property taxes in 2017. With a further reduction reflecting the revenue shortfall, the fund balance could dip to near $1.3 million. Shackett projects the tight operating budget will leave scant surplus to replenish the fund balance at year end. She has projected that with minimal operating surpluses, continuing to apply $1 million or more to county property taxes, the fund balance could shrink to less than $1 million in 2018 and 2019.

Moody's Investor Services has pointed to annual appropriations from the fund balance to balance the operating budget among the major fiscal challenges facing the county, and weighing on its credit rating. At the same time, without a stable and robust fund balance in the neighborhood of $4 or $5 million, the county will lack the resources to stabilize county tax rates.

Gilford mobile home destroyed in fire

04-04 Gilford mobile home fire

A fire that broke out shortly before 6 p.m. Sunday destroyed a mobile home at 9 Sargent Place, Lot 52.  Firefighters from Alton, Belmont, Gilford, Franklin and Laconia responded to Lake Breeze Mobile Home Park to help quell the fire that ruined the two-bedroom trailer. The mobile home is owned by Vaughn Monroe. A resident of the park for the past 11 years, Monroe said he was grateful to be alive and that no one was hurt. (Bea Lewis/for The Laconia Daily Sun)



GILFORD — The owner of mobile home destroyed by fire on Sunday told officials he had a slow cooker plugged in on his stove top and fears he could have accidentally turned on the burner beneath it.

Vaughn Monroe estimated he been outside talking with the manager at Lake Breeze Trailer Park for three minutes, when his friend commented that there was a lot of smoke coming from the top of the hill. Monroe said in the less than a minute it took him to make it the estimated 300 feet back to his trailer, flames were shooting out of the kitchen window.

Neighbors had already called 911 at about 6 p.m., and while the fire department was en route, Monroe said, he looked on in disbelief and was prepared to keep civilians away.

"I think I'm probably in shock," Monroe said, while expressing gratitude that no one was hurt, including his dog Reba, a shelter rescue.

Gilford firefighters dug through the wreckage to locate Monroe's heavily charred desk and carried it outside. He hoped among the blackened documents inside were his insurance paperwork.

Gilford Fire Chief Stephen Currier said the fire definitely originated in the kitchen of the trailer that he estimated to be about 16 feet wide and 30 feet long, and that it appears to be accidental.

Monroe said a fellow park resident had offered him a place to stay until he can make other arrangements.

Chief Carrier said the first crews on the scene reported heavy fire from the kitchen and an attached enclosed porch. Able to connect to a hydrant just inside the park entrance, crews quickly knocked down the fire but not before it had consumed much of the kitchen closest to the road. The property is located at 9 Sargent Place, Lot #52.

"I'm happy I got out, the dog got out and no one was hurt. Everything else can be replaced," Monroe said, praising firefighters for their quick response.


Math with Myles

04-04 Math with Myles

Colvin Williams, 8, sketches geometric shapes she sees in a bicycle brought into her third-grade class at Elm Street School. Bicycles are being used to help teach math and science. (Rick Green/Laconia Daily Sun)

Elm Street School student learn geometry with MC Cycle owner


LACONIA — What better way to get third-graders to focus on geometric shapes than having them identify circles, squares and triangles in bicycles?

Myles Chase, owner of MC Cycle and Sport in Laconia, brought a Litespeed road bike, a Felt mountain bike and a bicycle frame into Elm Street School one day last week so the youngsters could identify and sketch the shapes they saw.

Andrew Mercer, the teacher, has arranged for Chase to make several weekly visits. Ultimately, the students will visit Chase in his shop downtown and examine other businesses they read about recently in an article in their hometown newspaper.

The students will discuss angles, materials and safety equipment. They will measure the pounds per square inch in the tires. They will also be making a connection to a local member of the community, the bicycle shop owner. They may even get a couple tips about maintaining their bicycles.

“I've known Myles for a few years now, and the bike just seemed to be something that all of the kids can relate to,” said Mercer, an avid bicyclist. “For me, that was the best point to use because of the number of circles, shapes and lines, and it gives us the flexibility to also talk about PSI and measurements and weights.”

There will also be a competition to keep the kids focused.

“Next week, there will be a relay race, with kids blowing up tires,” Mercer said.

The materials used in making the bicycles will also be discussed, including aluminum, titanium and carbon fiber.

Ultimately, Mercer would like to see the day when Laconia could have a bike-share program in which people could sign out bicycles for a certain period of use.

“How neat would it be to have 20 bikes sitting out here with helmets these kids could use?” he said. “We have the WOW Trail. Let's use it. It's a full-day walk to get downtown. On a bike, we could be there in 20 minutes. It would be awesome.”

The children seemed to thrive on their exposure to math through bicycles.

One looked at a bike frame and identified a scalene triangle, or a triangle with three unequal sides.

Another labeled 11 different shapes on the bikes, and described an obtuse angle as well as a right angle with a 90-degree measurement. Another compared and contrasted the mountain bike with the road bike.

They also got a chance to ask Myles some questions:

Q: “Why does that bike have no pedals?”

A: “We were worried about Mr. Mercer riding it through the hallways. No, we put the pedals on the bike when the bike is sold.”

Q: “What kind of bikes are these?”

A: “This one over here is considered a plus-size mountain bike. Plus size refers to the wheel size. And this one is a road racing bike, designed for pavement only and competitive riding.

Q: “How fast do the bikes go?”

A: “As fast as you can pedal them.”

Q: “How many bikes do you have?”

A: “Personally, I have eight bikes, but in my shop I have over 50 bikes.”

Q: “What are the bikes made of?”

A: “The mountain bike is made out of a metal called aluminum, the frame on that table is a metal called titanium, which is a very lightweight material; and this one isn't metal, it's a fiber, it's carbon fiber, a lot like plastic material.”

Q: “Why are the tires different?”

A: “The tires on this are thin to cut down on resistance. On the pavement, you want less resistance to go fast. We're not going over any dirt or obstacles so we don't need the kind of tread that's on a mountain bike.”