Gilmanton Year Round Library seeks funding of $48,500


GILMANTON — The Gilmanton Year-Round Library has once again asked the taxpayers for $48,500 for its annual operations costs but after failing last year, people are wondering what effect the results of a townwide survey about it will mean.

While nobody spoke either for or against the measure at the Budget Committee's public hearing last month, Budget Committee Chairman Brian Forst said that there is really nothing new to talk about.

"People will either support it or they won't," he said.

The new piece of information voters have this year is the results of a town-wide survey commissioned by the library to learn what voters think about the library itself and whether or not the town should fund its operating costs.

Sent in August of 2016, about 20 percent or 343 of the 1,715 surveys were returned. Of those 343 people, 86 percent or 295 respondents are familiar with the library, 93 percent or 318 respondents said they knew the library cards are free and 64 percent or 219 had them.

Most respondents, 83 percent or 284 people, voted in the March 2016 town election and 60 percent of them or 171 people said they supported spending $50,000 to fund GYRL operation costs. Thirty-nine percent of those who responded to the survey and voted in the 2016 election, or 112 people, voted against funding.

The 2016 warrant article was narrowly voted down by a 51-to-49 percent margin.

Of the respondents who voted against funding, 55 percent said it was because they were under the impression that the year-round library would never ask for taxpayer money and 38 percent said it was because they were concerned about the tax rate. Smaller percentages of respondents said they didn't think the town needed a full-service library and some said they don't use it.

Respondents were allowed to check any, all or none of the reasons why they voted against funding, so with the information provided it's not possible to tell how many voted for what reason.

Overall, the survey takers determined that the people who do use the year-round library like it very much and that the majority of the people who vote against funding do so because either they think the town promised not to ask taxpayers for money or they are concerned with the tax impact.

Demographically, survey takers determined that people who are younger, who have higher levels of education and who have lived in Gilmanton for fewer than 10 years are more likely to support funding for the library.

The survey was performed by The Survey Center at the University of New Hampshire.

Belknap County surplus $850,000 more than expected


LACONIA — Belknap County's current fund balance is expected to be $850,000 higher than was projected just two weeks ago according to Belknap County Commissioners, who now project that the county will have a 2016 surplus of $1,270,000.
Belknap County Commission Chairman Dave DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) said that the increase is due to a recalculation by Belknap County Administrator Debra Shackett of operational savings last year, which were originally projected at $250,000, but are now expected to reach $1.1 million.
DeVoy said that it was good news for the county but pointed out that county's fund balance heading into this year is $3,376,824, the lowest in recent history and is trending downward.
Commissioners discussed the new fund balance number at an emergency meeting held Thursday at the Belknap County Complex at which department heads sought changes in their proposed budgets which would add over $100,000 in spending.
They also discussed concern over discussions held with members of the Belknap County Delegation who, according to DeVoy, want to cut the proposed $28,034,331 budget by as much as $2-3 million.
"If that happens, the new corrections center we're building won't be occupied because we won't have the funds to staff it," said DeVoy. He maintained that the reduction in county taxes which the previous county delegation achieved last year by using $605,000 more than had been recommended by the commission from the fund balance, can't be sustained.
This year's proposed $28,034,331 will see the amount to be raised by taxes revert to the $13,837,174 raised in 2015, which is about $875,000 more than was raised last year. In order to achieve that, the commissioners have agreed to use $2,183,657 in surplus funds.
The proposed amount to be raised by taxes is 6.31 percent higher than last year's budget, which raised $12,963,440, a 6.74 decrease from 2015
Commissioner Hunter Taylor (R-Alton) said that Belknap County has historically had the lowest tax rate of any county in the state and that it raises less money than all but Sullivan County, which has a population of 43,103, which is two-thirds of Belknap County's 60,305.
He said that Belknap County "has constantly raided the fund balance to reduce taxes" and that at the end of the process it will produce a real tax spike.
"A $3 million cut would be a disaster. More than one department would be devastated," said Taylor.
DeVoy and Taylor have said that Belknap County's amount to be raised by taxes has dropped by 10 percent since 2008 while every town in the county and the city of Laconia have seen increases of at least 8 percent in the same time period.
Among the requests for additional funding were two major ones from the Corrections Department, Superintendent Keith Gray said that $130,000 request for medical services needs to be increased by $45,000 and the Dietary Department needs to be increased from $200,000 to $240,000.
He explained that the prison population is holding at around 100 inmates and that with meal costs increasing from $2.05 to $2.85 a meal he will need additional money to feed prisoners.
DeVoy asked why more inmates weren't being released with electrical monitors and Gray said that not many of them qualified for pre-trial release.

Belmont already has four-way race for selectman

BELMONT — After only three days into the election's sign-up period there is already a four-way race for selectman.

Incumbent Ronald Cormier is being challenged by Richard Pickwick, Brian Watterson and Claude "Sonny" Patten for the one open slot.

Planning Board incumbents Peter Harris and Rick Segalini are seeking reelection to their posts as is Norma Patten who is seeking spots as cemetery trustee, the Zoning Board of Adjustments and the Budget Committee.

Mary Louise Charnley is seeking re-election to a three-year term as a library trustee while, to date, no one has signed up for a one-year seat that recently became open.

Karen Jameson is seeking re-election as trustee of the trust fund.

Those interested may file with the town clerk by Friday, Feb. 3, by 5 p.m.

– Gail Ober