LACONIA — As he wrestles with constructing the 2014-2015 city budget, City Manager Scott Myers has invited residents to lend a hand by offering their opinions about how their tax dollars should be spent.
Although the City Council holds a number of meetings with department heads as well as a public hearing on the budget, relatively few people are able to spend their evenings at City Hall. While the public is always welcome when the council tackles the budget, what Myers calls the Budget Survey provides residents an opportunity to express their views and state their priorities early in the process of preparing the budget.
The survey is posted on the city's website — www.city.laconia.nh.us — as well as at the City Clerk's office, Laconia Public Library and Community Center. It asks residents to score the importance of 10 municipal departments and services on a six-point scale, with 1 the highest priority and 6 the lowest, and to indicate whether the city is spending too little, too much or just enough on each. The survey period lasts through the end of the month.
The results of the survey will be posted on the city's website and published in its newsletter, "Laconia Links."
Last Updated on Wednesday, 12 March 2014 12:25
CENTER HARBOR — The owners of E.M. Heath, Inc. have donated "Cop Cards" to the Police Department as part of a community effort to facilitate the relationship the police have with the local youths in town.
The cards, have a picture, a biography and a personal message from each of the officers and the administrator.
Sgt. Scott Weiss said the children in town love them and often send letters to the department asking for them.
He said the police will put together packages with patches and other small police tokens along with the cards and send them back to the children.
E.M. Heath Manager Dave Petell said the company likes giving back to the community and really appreciates all of the work the police do for the youths in town. He said he sees a lot of children especially during the summer because E.M. Heath's businesses are so close to the beach and the basketball courts.
CUTLINE (Center Harbor Cop Cards) E.M. Heath, Inc. manager Dave Petell and Center Harbor Police Sgt. Scott Weiss show off the new "cop cards" the company purchased for the police department. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Gail Ober)
Last Updated on Wednesday, 12 March 2014 12:17
GILMANTON — In what Town Clerk Debra Cornett described as a record turnout for a local election, 1,002 (41 percent) of 2,426 registered voters came to the polls on Tuesday.
And while residents voted overwhelming to support the Fire Department's warrant article for having four full-time firefighters, the voting population remains divided over funding the Gilmanton Year-Round Library which will get its money this year after the ayes beats the nays by 17 votes.
Although 500 people said they wanted the library to get $52,500 to fund its operating costs for 2014, 483 did not — meaning that there is no clear mandate whether or not the town should continue in the future to support it.
Steve McCormack, a retired Marine and former employee of the State Employees Association, beat James Barnes for the one open seat on the Selectboard by a margin of 489 to 393.
In his election interviews and at the recently candidates night, McCormack didn't have a set opinion about the library and said he would need to do more research.
McCormack distinctly supported the Fire Department's petitioned warrant article request to have four full-time firefighters and said the Board of Selectmen should let the fire chief run his own department. The voters agreed, with 662 voting for Article 30 and 300 voting against it.
Selectmen have said they would listen to the will of the voters but until the new board meets, no final decisions have been made.
The petitioned warrant article is advisory only. By state law, the selectmen are the town's governing body and can spend the money appropriated as they see fit as long as they don't spend more than the voters allowed them to raise.
In this case, selectmen said they are looking to save taxpayers between $20,000 and $30,000 annually.
On the Gilmanton School side, incumbent Michael Hatch and former school board member Frank Weeks were elected to the two open positions. Weeks got 526 votes, Hatch got 477 votes and 396 for challenger David Strang.
The same voters overwhelming voted down the School District's request to add a two classroom modular unit to the school that would be leased for three years at a total cost of $133,661. The district wanted the modular unit to ease crowding at the school because of growing enrollments. The vote was 325 for it and 605 against.
Voters also rejected the Budget Committee's proposed budget of $9,681,555, opting for the default budget of $9,577,468. The vote was 424 for the budget as presented and 491 against it.
The two petitioned warrants articles — one that would have imposed a tax cap and one that would have eliminated the School District High School Expendable Trust Fund used to pay tuition to Gilford High School in in the event high school students move to town and there is no money in the budget for tuition — failed by large margins.
Last Updated on Thursday, 13 March 2014 03:21
LACONIA — Belknap County Administrator Debra Shackett acknowledged yesterday that four positions have been eliminated at the Belknap County Nursing Home but said that none of them were direct care positions.
''We have no reason to believe resident care will suffer,'' said Shackett, who said that the cuts are a direct result of budget cuts made to the commissioners' proposed budget by the Belknap County Convention.
She said that commissioners made the decision, which she said was ''extremely difficult'', after consulting with Belknap County Nursing Home Administrator Mathew Logue last week during a non-public session.
She said discussions have been held with all department heads in an attempt to locate possible savings. ''We have to live within the confines of that budget,'' said Shackett, who added that there have been no final decision on whether more positions will be eliminated.
One of those laid off was Debbie White of Belmont, who has been employed at the county home for 39 years. She wrote in a letter to the editor which appears in today's Daily Sun (page 4) that she was notified that her position was eliminated due to budget cuts.
The letter, addressed to residents of the nursing home and their families, urged them to ''act casual in this very difficult situation as I do not want to disrupt the workings of the home.'' She said that her last day on the job will be April 1 and that ''I will leave you all with my head held high and no regrets, knowing I have served you well.''
County Commissioners said last week that their major priority in dealing with the $974,000 budget cut will be paying the health insurance costs which are a continuing part of the employee benefits for county workers, who are now in their third year without a contract.
Last week the Belknap County Convention approved a $25,596, 863 budget, some $200,000 less than last year's, and cut the amount allocated for health insurance from $3.1 million to $2.6 million. Commissioners had proposed a $26,570,000 budget.
Commissioners appear to be headed toward using the same strategy as they did last year when they shifted funds between different accounts within departments to meet what they maintain are the county's contractual obligations to employees. The commissioners are seeking a legal opinion, as they did last year, on their authority to move money from one account to another within departments.
The County Convention, which maintains that it has authority over line items in the budget, passed a motion last week when it finalized the budget which would require county Executive Committee approval for all line item budget transfers.
There has been an ongoing dispute for over a year on the issue of who controls budget line items which led to vote by the convention last fall to take a vote authorizing legal action against the commission, but no suit has yet been filed.
Commissioners are also seeking an opinion from an attorney on how they should proceed on a request from the convention for legal fees in a suit brought against County Convention Chairman Colette Worsman (R-Meredith) and County Convention Clerk Jane Cormier (R-Alton) by the five Democrats on the convention alleging a Right-to-Know law violation at the Feb. 18 meeting.
The suit seeks to overturn a 7-7 tie vote on a motion to pass the commission's budget at that meeting and maintains that the Right-to-Know law was violated when Worsman allowed Rep. Guy Comtois to vote by phone.
When the convention met last week night Worsman sought to amend the minutes of meeting of February 18 to show that before the meeting was convened she and other members referred to the Right-to-Know law and discussed the procedure for allowing Comtois to participate by telephone. Democrats pointed out there was no quorum at that time and not all those who were present were party to the discussion.
Worsman's attempt to amend the minutes failed on a 5-4 vote with four abstentions.
It appears that he minutes issue will come up again, but not in Laconia. Worsman has scheduled two convention meetings in Concord on March 19 and March 26 at noon or 10 minutes after the legislature breaks for lunch for a discussion of meeting minutes in Room 209 of the Legislative Office Building.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 12 March 2014 11:40
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