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After deliverative session amendment, Gilmanton Schools could double spending & still comply with proposed tax cap

GILMANTON — An attempt by some residents to impose a total property tax cap for three years on the School District went horribly awry Saturday when the  warrant article was changed from allowing "zero" increases to "$10 million" at the deliberative session of town meeting.

If the article passes on March 11, the School District cannot increase it's budget by more than $10-million per year. But the School District's total annual budget is less than than sum now.

As written, the article restricted the Gilmanton School District to a $0-increase for the next three budgets after the budget for the 2014-2015 school year. The article was submitted as a request to adopt the provision of RSA 32:5-b that allows districts and towns to adopt tax caps.

With the operating budget at $9.6 million for both this school year and the next, Superintendent Joe Fauci said he couldn't foresee an occasion where the Gilmanton School Budget would literally double in size.

He said if the zero-cap recommendation passed as petitioned, it would have frozen the budget regardless of contractual obligations, including the tuition needed to send their high school children to Gilford, or special education expenses.

Neither the School Board nor the Budget Committee supports a tax cap.

Fauci said he wanted to assure the voters that tax cap or not, he would continue to develop responsible budgets that allow the district to educate its students while keeping the concerns of the taxpayers in mind.

A second petitioned warrant article will, if passed, eliminate the School District High School Expendable Trust that holds about $30,000 in the event unanticipated students move to Gilmanton and need to be tuitioned to Gilford High School.

If it is eliminated, the money would return to the taxpayers.

According to Fauci, the expendable trust account was established in 2003 when the Gilmanton School District entered into its 20-year agreement to educate high school students in the neighboring  town.
He said the goal of the fund was to set aside enough money to cover two students.

At $17,425 per student, Fauci said the current fund balance would almost cover two students, which he said has traditionally been enough money.
Those who wish to eliminate it, including some member of the Budget Committee, said the fund has not been used for a number of years and that there is enough room in the regular operating budget to absorb the costs of a student or two should one or two of them move into the district mid-year.

In the same vein, the Budget Committee didn't recommend adding $10,000 to the Special Education Expendable Trust Fund that provides a cushion in the event a student who need special services moves into the district or moves into the district and needs to be placed into a specialized school. This article was placed on the warrant by the School District.

Right now, said Budget Committee Chair Brian Forst, the fund holds slightly over $190,000. He said the money is in a interest-bearing account and the amount of interest it will earn this year will bring it close to the $200,000 goal so the Budget Committee didn't recommend adding the $10,000.

Fauci said the district hasn't had to use the fund in a few years but supported adding to it because the costs of special education can be very high in some cases.
As an example, he said a child may need a full-time paraprofessional aid or may need to be sent outside of the district, however the district is still responsible for any costs incurred.

Voters go to the polls on March 11.

Last Updated on Thursday, 13 February 2014 01:34

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Former director of Inter-Lakes food services is subject of police investigation; wife indicted for theft

MEREDITH — The Director of Food Services for Inter-Lakes Regional School district is no longer employed there, The Daily Sun confirmed on Wednesday.

Multiple sources told the newspaper that Joseph Cyr, who is an employee of Cafe Services, Inc., a private company that handles Inter-Lakes food and cafeteria services, is the target of a criminal investigation being conducted by Moultonborough Police.

"There is somebody else in that position right now," said Superintendent Mary Ellen Ormand.

While the scope of the investigation involving Joseph Cyr is not public information, what can be confirmed is that Cyr's wife, Shirley, was indicted last week by a Belknap County grand jury for one felony count of theft by unauthorized taking.

Sources said the investigation into Joseph Cyr stemmed from what the police found in the Cyr's Moultonborough home while they were executing a warrant to search for something his wife Shirley had allegedly stolen.

Shirley Cyr's indictment indicates she took possession of and sold jewelry between December 6 and December 7 that was taken from a couple while she was providing care in their home.

Search warrant affidavits obtained from the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division indicate that on August 3, 2013 a man reported to the Meredith Police that a substantial amount of money was missing from his residence. He said he didn't want Shirley Cyr, his caretaker as well, investigated because he thought it was someone else who took it. The complaint was investigated but no arrests were made.

In December,  Meredith Police began investigation of the complaint that led to the indictment. A couple contacted police regarding some jewelry that was stolen between December 6 and December 7, when Shirley Cyr was in their home and working for the same home care company.

While interviewing her, police affidavits indicate she confessed to officers that while employed as a care taker by Live Free Home Care, she took the jewelry and sold it at various gold dealers in the area.

When questioned about the August theft, the same affidavits said Cyr denied involvement. She agreed to take a polygraph test that was conducted by a Laconia Police detective who concluded Cyr had failed the test.

The Meredith officer and the Laconia detective re-interviewed Shirley Cyr, and according to the affidavit, she admitted she took $12,000 from the first victim's home.

She allegedly told them she took $3,000 and placed it in a safe belonging to her father who lives with her at 14 Hanson Mill Road in Moultonborough. She told police she spent the rest but couldn't recall specifically where it went.

Looking for the $3,000, Meredith Police applied for and received a search warrant for her home that included all rooms, open or closed, all closets, opened or closed, and any furniture, containers including outbuildings and sheds where a safe or money could be hidden.

Meredith Police and Moultonborough Police executed the search warrant and made a discovery that led Moultonborough Police to apply for a separate warrant for the home — this time targeting the other members of the household including Joseph Cyr.

Moultonborough Police confirmed last week that there was an ongoing investigation but declined to offer any details.

Last Updated on Thursday, 13 February 2014 01:21

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Debate signals partisan tone to what all agree is a largely non-partisan position

MEREDITH — Some 120 voters filled the Community Center to overflowing Tuesday night to take stock of the two candidates vying for the Executive Council seat in District 1 — Republican Joe Kenney of Wakefield and Democrat Michael Cryans of Hanover. A special election will be held March 11 and differences emerged clearly as the men fielded questions from about 120 voters.

The forum, sponsored by the Belknap County Republican Committee and Lakes Region and Belknap County Democratic Committees, and moderated by Liz Tentarelli of the League of Women Voters of New Hampshire drew people from around the Lakes Region, the Upper Valley and Mount Washington Valley.

Both candidates repeatedly invoked the legacy of the late Ray Burton, who held the seat for 34 years, by vowing to make constituent service their top priority. Cryans, who said "I learned what Ray was all about" serving with him on the Grafton County Commission for 16 years, found seeking to succeed him as an executive councilor " a humbling experience." Kenney, who courted the more conservative wing of the GOP to best Christopher Boothby of Meredith in the Republican primary, acknowledged that while he and Burton "did not always agree on the issues, we agreed you always put the people first."

Kenney, repeatedly touted his 14 years in the Legislature — eight in the House of Representatives and six in the Senate — experience, he claimed, would enable him "to hit the ground running" and help "people navigate state government."

In response, Cryans noted that three sitting executive councilors — Republican Chris Sununu and Democrats Colin Van Ostern and Chris Pappas — were elected without prior experience of state government. He said that he would apply "his common sense, intelligence, resources and relationships" on behalf of his constituents. A former teacher and banker who has served as executive director of a substance abuse treatment facility for the past 10 years, he said "I'll go with the skill set I have and match my experience up with Joe any day."

The two candidates agreed that there is little place for ideology or partisanship in the work of an executive councilor. "It would be a disservice Ray Burton's memory," said Kenney. ""I'm not going to ask are you a Republican or Democrat. "I'm going to ask 'how can I help you.'" Likewise, Cryans said flatly that "being a Republican or a Democrats doesn't matter."

Nevertheless, their responses to most, if not all, questions reflected their political differences.

Both candidates decried the deterioration of roads and bridges, especially in the northern reaches of the state, but neither expressed support for raising the gas tax to help pay for repairs. Kenney, who chaired the Senate Transportation Committee, said that he opposed increasing the tax as along money was being "siphoned" from the Highway Trust Fund for other purposes and that he would convene a statewide conference on the transportation infrastructure. Cryans said that District 1, which sprawls over the northern three-quarters of the state was not receiving its appropriate share of highway funds.

Cryans considered the advent of wind farms a local issue, declaring that "when a town says no, that should be it. It's a local decision." But, Kenney, noting that local decisions have been overridden, insisted it was also "a state policy issue." He said that while Republicans voted for a moratorium on wind farms and other energy facilities, the Democrats opposed it, asking "who can you trust" and vowing "I will fight against big wind."

Reminded that in 2011 the Executive Council voted not to renew the contract to provide health care to women with Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, the candidates were asked how they would vote if the contract returned to the table. Kenney, who as a senator voted to defund the contract but as a candidate has finessed the issue, said he would vote against contracting with Planned Parenthood. He explained that the organization is federally funded by the Affordable Care Act and that to seek state funding would be "double dipping."

Replying that he favored the contracting with Planned Parenthood, Cryans noted that two of the five Republican executive councilors — Burton and Chris Sununu — voted to renew the contract, which enjoyed bipartisan support.

Although Cryans and Kenney agreed that by excluding 10 hospitals, the network of Anthem, the sole provider on the state health insurance exchange, was inadequate, Kenney placed the blame on the Affordable Care Act while Cryans insisted "it was Anthem's decision." Kenney replied "let's not just pick on Anthem, noting that the governor and Insurance commissioner approved the plan. Likewise, they deplored the lack of competition in the health insurance marketplace, with Kenney taking the opportunity to claim that reforms introduced by then state senator now United States Senator Shaheen prompted many insurance carriers to leave the state.

Kenney also expressed opposition to expanding Medicaid. He claimed that the state provides $103 million annually to hospitals in reimbursement for uncompensated care and suggested the funds should be assigned to the uninsured.

While Cryans considered Common Core, the controversial education reform sponsored by the National Governors Association, "essential to moving forward and preparing the workforce," Kenney branded it "a federal takeover of our schools," calling for a return to local and parental control.

Kenney opposed any increase in the minimum wage, which he described as suited to unskilled workers, warning that the additional cost of labor would fall on consumers in the form of higher prices. Favoring an increase, Cryans said that "we should phase in a livable minimum wage, adding that too many people were working multiple jobs to make ends meet.

When the two were asked how they would approach the nominations of judges, Kenney stressed he would not endorse "judicial activism," explaining that he expected judicial nominees to cleave to "the letter of the Constitution and the law" and refrain from "legislative decisions." Cryans said he was not familiar with the term "judicial activism," but would weight the qualifications and temperament of nominees, together with the evidence provided in support of their nomination.

District 1 reaches into seven of the 10 counties — Coos, Carroll, Grafton, Belknap, Strafford, Sullivan and Merrimack — and includes four of its 13 cites, 109 of its 221 towns and 19 of its 25 unincorporated places. The general election will be held on Tuesday, March 11, town meeting day.

Last Updated on Thursday, 13 February 2014 01:15

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Jim Chase will finish out year as principal of Elm Street School

LACONIA — Elm Street School Principal Kevin Michaud will resign from the Laconia School District effective February 21 for family and health reasons, said Superintendent Terri Forsten yesterday. He became principal in July of 2012.

Beginning on March 11, the retired Laconia High School Dean of Students/ Athletic Director Jim Chase will serve as interim principal until a permanent replacement for Michaud's can be hired.

Forsten said Chase was an elementary school teacher for most of his career. He began teaching at Elm Street School and was at one time the principal of the Pleasant Street School.

The search for a new principal will begin in March and Forsten said she anticipates a new one will be hired by the beginning of July.

Michaud came to Laconia from Milton, where he was an assistant principal at both the elementary and middle/high schools. Prior to that post, he build a considerable resume in the State of Maine.

Last Updated on Thursday, 13 February 2014 01:08

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