Gilford school superintendent proposes dropping number of administrative team members by 1

GILFORD — Many of the 45 to 50 parents of children in the local school district expressed some trepidation last night about elimination the position of middle school vice principal.

The parents who spoke compared the elimination of the position to the elimination of the Gilford Elementary School vice principal about eight years ago and said there primary concern is that teaching staff won't get the administrative support for education and disciplinary issues.

Most parents wanted the administrative team to continue the way it currently is, and there was even some support for bringing back an assistant principal at the elementary, which isn't likely to happen.

"I didn't move to Gilford to save money," said one woman who declined to be identified. "Do we have to make these cuts."

The "cuts" are really a proposed restructuring of the 10 people who make up the administrative team for the School District. For fiscal year 2015-2016, there will be no reduction in the number of people on the team nor will there be any reduction in the budget.

Right now, the administrative staff includes a superintendent, a business administrator, a special services director, a technology director and a curriculum director at the SAU level.

In addition, there is a principal and vice-principal at the high school, a principal and a vice-principal at the middle school and a principal at the elementary school.

With the sudden resignation of the Gilford Middle School principal and with declining enrollments projected throughout the district, the School Board already decided to move the high school principal to the middle school and advertise for the vacancy.

Last night, Superintendent Kent Hemingway recommended converting the positions of district-wide curriculum director and the middle school vice principal to two positions that would coordinate both curriculum and student supervision.

Hemingway said he would like to keep one person at each of the two upper buildings as much as possible, saying he's not a fan of moving administrators from building to building.

He said those two individuals are already employed at the school and he expects them to stay on with their new job responsibilities. Any proposed cuts to the administrative team would come in fiscal year 2016-2017, when Hemingway is recommending the administrative team be reduced from 10 to 9 "point something," meaning, at this point, he just doesn't know.

Hemingway told the parents that the teachers and the teachers' union have already been appraised of the changes and more meetings with both would likely continue.

As of last night, the School Board hadn't made a final decision on Hemingway's proposals.

Full steam ahead on jail plan

LACONIA — Belknap County Commissioners voted last evening to seek proposals from architectural firms to develop a schematic plan for a proposed 64-bed "community corrections" facility which is recommended by a consulting firm hired in January by the commissioners.
Commission Chairman Dave DeVoy said that he hopes to bring a bond issue for around $7 million to the Belknap County Convention for approval before the year ends in order to build the new facility, which is modeled on a similar one built in Sullivan County (Claremont) in 2008.
DeVoy said that the yearly payment on a bond issue of that size would be around $550,000, which the county could handle without a tax increase as bonds which are currently costing $600,000 a year in principal and interest payments will be retired in the near future.
''The taxpayers won't feel the pain'' said DeVoy, who acknowledged that increased staffing is a major issue but hoped that the commission ''can reshape things around here and make up the difference.''
Questioned by Rep, Mike Sylvia (R-Belmont) on whether the cost of the schematic design would be included in a proposed bond issue, DeVoy said that he anticipated that there would be sufficient funds for the design in a newly created account in the 2015 budget for jail planning. Over $400,000 has been set aside.
Commissioners made the decision after hearing from Kevin Warwick and Ross Cunningham of Alternative Solutions Associates, Inc., the firm the county hired for $40,000 to develop a program for a community corrections facility that emphasizes rehabilitation.
The plan they presented would see 30 treatment beds, 20 for men and 10 for women, and 34 work release beds, 24 for men and 10 for women. The new facility, which would be built next to the current jail and connected to it through a newly created control room. It would contain 22,327-square-feet and a suggested addition which would include a small 2,500-square-foot gym, 1,500-square-feet of administrative space — all of which would bring the total space to just over 27,000-square-feet.
The facility would be of heavy commercial grade construction and would provide residential minimum security treatment as well as group space for programs.
Staffing requirements would be five correctional staff and a supervisor while program staff would entail three clinicians, two case managers, a full-time administrative assistant and half-time clerical person. But some of those positions would not require new hires as the estimated number of beds being used in the current facility would drop into the mid 40s, which would allow the transfer of some current staff to the new facility.
The consultants recommended that the county look at contracted workers from firms currently providing services for inmates to serve as program staffers, which could result in saving money and could prove to be a more effective model.
Other key considerations include a control room replacement for the current facility with a complete security system for a cost of $350,000, as well as upgrade to the HVAC system for the existing jail — with an eye to also having it handle the community corrections facility as well.
The consultants recommend that the work be completed on the new facility before any renovations are undertaken in the current jail.
Commissioner DeVoy wondered if it would be possible to undertake an upgrade of the HVAC system in the current facility as soon as possible and the consultants said that was a question which the architectural firm which is chosen would be best positioned to answer.

Cunningham, who was superintendent of the Sullivan County Corrections Department when they built the facility in 2008, said the county spent $5.8 million on the community corrections center and $1.3  million in upgrades to the existing jail. He cautioned that those costs came at a time when the economy was in recession and would have been much higher in a stronger economy.

Muskrats must complete left field deck by December

LACONIA — The Parks and Recreation Commission has renewed the agreement between the city and the Laconia Muskrats, which will open its sixth season of New England Collegiate Baseball League play at Robbie Mills Field in June.

Kevin Dunleavy, director of Parks and Recreation, said that the original agreement negotiated in 2010 was for a term of five years and expired after last season. He said that the essence of the agreement remained unchanged.

However, while the agreement specified that an observation deck behind the wall in left field was to be completed by May 30, 2015, Dunleavy said that Noah Crane, general manager of Muskrats, asked for the deadline to be extended. The commission agreed to extend the deadline for completion of the deck until November 30.

Crane explained yesterday that the project will be undertaken by staff and students of the Huot Technical Center at Laconia High School after the season closes. He said that he was very confident that the work will be completed by the deadline.

Dunleavy recalled that in 2012 the commission approved Crane's proposal to sell beer at home games on the condition that the concession would be confined to the the observation deck. He anticipated that once the project is complete Crane will ask the commission to reaffirm its earlier decision to permit the sale and consumption of beer on the deck.

City manager's proposed budget funds roads, firefighters

LACONIA — Increased investment in city streets and maintaining four additional firefighter positions are the major features of the 2015-16 city budget that City Manger Scott Myers presented to the City Council last night.

Myers proposed city expenditures of $22,860,061 -- an increase of $8,446 over the current year. However, revenues from sources other than property taxes, including the use of fund balance, are projected to drop by $537,702, or 7.1 percent. A one-time credit from the Concord Regional Solid Waste/Resource Recovery Cooperative of $800,000 represents most of the decrease. But it is partially offset by increases in fees from licensing and permitting, especially motor vehicle registration.

Myers explained that the $800,000 credit received last year was not spent and recommended applying $600,000 of the amount to street repairs in 2015-16, increasing the total appropriation for road work to $1.75 million. He said that he will suggest the remaining $200,000 be carried forward to 2016-17, when again between $1.7 million and $1.8 million would be appropriated for street repairs.

Apart from street repairs, other capital outlays include $25,000 for repair and construction of sidewalks, $40,000 for repair and replacement of guardrails and fences, $100,000 for drainage improvements, $30,000 for bridge repair and maintenance, $28,000 install irrigation at Memorial Field, and $155,000 for portable radios for the Fire Department. Myers also recommends borrowing $300,000 to fund the restoration of Weirs Beach.

Myers said that his proposed budget includes $50,000 in general fund expenditure, which together with funding from LRGH and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grants from the federal government ,will enable the Fire Department to retain the four firefighters originally hired for two years with federal funding. The budget also includes 50 percent of the funding for an additional police officer and third motor mechanic, which are two positions that were partially funded in the 2014-15 budget.

The budget includes wage adjustments reflecting increases in steps and cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) with all four collective bargaining units representing city employees, three of which have ratified contracts. Negotiations with the State Employees Association (SEA), representing employees at the Department of Public Works, remain ongoing.

Myers said that the city has received a "not to exceed" rate increase of 3.4 percent for employee health insurance. He said that the city spent $3,085,212 for health insurance in 2011-12, but has budgeted $2,270,211 in 2015-16, a decrease of $814,946 over the past four years. Meanwhile, he anticipates the city's contribution to the New Hampshire Retirement System to rise by approximately $200,000 on July 1.

With the decline in revenue from sources other than property taxes, the amount to be raised by property taxes is projected to rise by $546,148, from $15,255,299 to $15, 801,447, a jump of 3.6 percent.  The increase is reflected in an increase the city portion of the tax rate of 16 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, from $8.73 to $8.89.

The School District budget is expected to increase by $1,712,800, from $30,894,058 to $32,606,858 -- or by 5.5 percent -- which represents a 35 cent increase in the school tax rate, from $9.67 to $10.02. The county tax rate is projected to drop a penny to $1.41 and the state education property tax rate by 14 cents to $2.44. Altogether, the municipal tax rate is estimated to rise by 36 cents from $22.40 to $22.76.