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Taxes in Gilmanton drop by almost 10%

GILMANTON — No property taxpayers in the eleven municipalities in Belknap County fared better in 2013 than those of Gilmanton where the tax burden fell by 9.4-percent and the tax rate by 9.7-percent.

The amount to be raised by taxes decreased in only one other town — Alton — and then by just 0.6-percent, while the property tax rate decreased in three other towns — Alton, Gilford and Barnstead — by 1.8-percent , 0.8-percent and 0.3-percent respectively. Everywhere else both the tax commitment and tax rate increased.

Meanwhile, in Gilmanton the amount to be raised by taxes was lowered by $1,047,240, from $11,142,077 to $10,094,837, and the tax rate by $2.27, from $23.42 to $21.15. These figures represent a ten-percent reduction in property tax bills.

Both the town and the school district contributed to lightening the tax burden. Town Administrator Arthur Capello said that the Board of Selectmen, with assistance from department heads, trimmed the operating budget from $3.9-million in 2012 to $3.6-million in 2013, a reduction of almost nine-percent. He said that the capital outlays were reduced, along with expenditures for maintenance and elections. At the same time, revenues from sources other than property taxes, especially motor vehicle registrations, exceeded projections while payment plans were introduced to enable taxpayers to pay a portion of their bills and keep properties on the tax rolls.

School Superintendent John Fauci said that a mix circumstances enabled the school district to return more than $900,000 to the town. He estimated that adjustments in tuition paid to the Gilford School District for high school students and special education costs represented about three-quarters of the difference between budgeted appropriations and actual expenditures while reduced energy and staffing costs accounted for the balance.

Capello noted that the total assessed valuation of the town rose $2.1-million, from $478.4-million to $480.5-million, or by 0.4-percent, which marginally contributed to the decrease in the property tax rate. However, he noted that the assessed valuation is approximately six-percent above market prices, which will require property values to be adjusted downward in 2014.

Last Updated on Friday, 06 December 2013 03:10

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'Culinary athletes' sought for Pub Mania

GILFORD — For those Alan Beetle of Patrick's Pub calls "culinary athletes," there are still some open seats for the fifth annual Pub Mania, which kicks off on Thursday, December 12 at 9 a.m. to benefit the WLNH Children's Auction.

Inspired by Cycle Mania, where relay teams kept the wheels of stationary cycle spinning for 24 hours, Pub Mania is tailored to more leisurely competitors who sit on bar stools while being entertained and entertaining each other. The event features 30 teams of 24 members apiece. Each team is assigned one of the stools ringing the bar at Patricks Pub, where each of its members sits for one hour, gathering pledges from those who support their team. Each team must raise at least $1,000.

Meanwhile, Pub Maniacs are treated to live music, poetry readings, comedy hours, talent contests, karaoke, barstool yoga and arts and crafts. A crew of referees may award teams points for their participation and performance in contests or dock them points for leaving a stool empty or overstaying their leave as well as conduct "contrary to the spirit of Pub Mania."

Since Pub Mania joined the repertoire of the Children's Auction, it has grown almost fourfold to become its largest single contributor. The event raised $47,000 in 2009, $60,000 in 2010, $110,700 in 2011 and $165,300 last year, all thanks to the sedentary efforts of some 720 participants and their supporters each year. Beetle said that the goal this year, as every year, is to top the amount the amount raised the year before.

Beetle said that although most teams have sold out their seats, more than two dozen remain seats on five different teams and urged anyone wishing to reserve a place to visit the website, patrickspub.com/pubmania.php and click on "available seats 2013."

Last Updated on Friday, 06 December 2013 03:09

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Laconia High adopts list of 32 "must read" novels

LACONIA — The High School Humanities Department has created a list of 32 must read books, which is known as the "Laconia Canon". The list was compiled to outline a high standard of reading comprehension, and is focused on meeting so-called Common Core standards.

"The Laconia Canon has been implemented to ensure that students do not leave the high school without a basic knowledge of the most crucial works written over the past century," said Tate Aldrich, English Teacher. "It does the students a great disservice in both college and life, if they do not have a background of these works."
The Canon is a collection of high-level literary works. The study of each book is designed to encourage students to think critically about abstract ideas and connect concepts to outside sources. Some of the works highlighted include "The Odyssey", "Macbeth", "The Call of the Wild", "Animal Farm", "A Midsummer Night's Dream", "The Pear", "Fahrenheit 451", "A Raisin in the Sun", "A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time", "The Scarlet Letter", "The Adventures of Huckleberry Fin", "The Great Gatsby", "Death of a Salesman", "1984", "Frankenstein", "Lord of the Flies", "To Kill a Mocking Bird", "Hamlet" and "Of Mice and Men". These and other books are required to be read in Social Studies, Citizenship, and U.S History.
Through the broad collection of novels, students are pushed to make connections with complex concepts such as morality, dichotomies, census, omnipotence and microcosms, as the reader is pushed to a new level of comprehension and knowledge. Digging deeper into the content of each novel, students are exposed to new forms of analyzing literary content, through thesis papers, literary circles, and frequent classroom discussion.

By approaching the works listed on the Canon in different ways, the students are able to extract a better understanding of important concepts, and have a more evolved way of looking at the world as a whole, said Aldrich.
The Common Core standards have been voluntarily implemented in most states, as they are aimed to ensure students leave high school proficient in reading and writing, explained Aldrich. Working as a continuous curriculum, students will be required to read various styles of works during their high school career, and become proficient in various styles of writing. In the English Department all students are required to write narrative essays throughout the year. The grading of each essay according to Common Core standards is used as a way to gauge where the students are in meeting the required benchmarks. The goal of this system is to ensure that through continuous practice of writing a specific type of style, the students will become proficient in the basic standards.
"In addition to promoting high academia, the collection of literary works is focused on meeting the new Common Core standards," said Rick Crockford, head of the Humanities Department. "The works ensure that during the course of their high school career, students will have both a high standard of reading comprehension and critical thinking before they graduate."

Last Updated on Friday, 06 December 2013 03:09

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Timeline presented to panel shows new jail up & running by fall '17

LACONIA — A timeline prepared for the Belknap County Jail Planning Committee eyes completion of a new county corrections facility in May of 2017, with the facility being occupied and fully operational by September of that same year.
The timeline was presented to the committee by Belknap County Administrator Debra Shackett and had been prepared at the suggestion of Rep. David Huot (D-Laconia), who along with other Democrats on the Belknap County Convention have been showing up lately at meetings of the jail planning group.
Shackett said the committee is currently in the fifth stage of the nine-phase facility development process, the design phase, which will take up to a year and require the development of schematic designs, followed by the design of development documents and then construction documents.
That work cannot proceed without approval of more funds by the Belknap County Convention and the committee is looking to present a proposal for a $3.5 million bond issue to the convention early next year which would provide $500,000 for a schematic design for a new facility, as well $1 million for replacing the HVAC system at the current jail and $1.8 million for the three-year rental of 48-bed temporary housing facility.
The convention has not appropriated any funds for the jail planning process since the summer of 2011, when it approved a $160,000 supplemental appropriation sought by the commissioners, by a single vote. The funds were used to hire Ricci Greene Associates, a New York consulting firm which earlier this year presented a conceptual plan for a two-story, 94,450-square-foot facility it estimated to cost $42.5 million. It would have 180 beds, plus five for inmates requiring medical care. A third of the beds — 44 for men and 16 for women — would be reserved for inmates awaiting trial, on work release, undergoing treatment or on electronic monitoring, the so-called community corrections part of the facility. The remaining 120 beds — 88 for men and 32 for women — would be allotted to maximum, medium, and minimum security inmates as well as those with special needs.
The plan was endorsed by the commissioners but was not well received by the convention and the Laconia City Council, which called on the commissioners to rethink the plan in terms of what was affordable for county taxpayers.
County Commissioner Ed Philpot (D-Laconia), chairman of the Jail Planning Committee, says that he expects that the costs of the proposed facility can be substantially reduced but defends the process the committee has taken to this point.
''We took the experts' recommendations to heart,'' Philpot told new members of the jail planning group's advisory committee at Tuesday night's meeting.
He said that the community corrections part of the proposal represents the best way to have programs in place which reduce recidivism and that having an adequate facility is the key to the entire process.
''The building is really a program location, not just a facility for housing inmates,'' said Philpot.
Belknap County Corrections Superintendent Dan Ward said that even with all of the crowding problems at the current jail there are programs which have been offered in the past which had great success and which could be expanded in a new facility.
''I'm confident that we can make these programs work if we have space,'' Ward told members of the committee, pointing out that a GED program offered over the last four years had seen 83 inmates earn a high school degree with only a 17 percent recidivism rate, compared to 50-60 percent for other inmates, and a zero percent recidivism rate for the 30 inmates who took part in a parenting program.
''We will be able to gain support by demonstrating the success of these programs,'' said Ward.
Ward said that there are currently 140 inmates in the county facility, which is designed for 120, and that the 17 women inmates are housed in the gymnasium, which keeps that part of the facility from being used for recreation during the months when outside recreation is limited.
''We've been sending upwards of 30 people away (to facilities in other counties) during recent months. If we install a temporary facility we get all of the prisoners back and get the use of the gymnasium back as well as have some program space,'' Ward says.
He said that the land where the temporary facility would be located is level and located just to the right (west) of the current jail and that all power, water and sewer lines can be connected directly on site and no changes would be needed to the road which serves the jail.
Ward said that the 50 foot by 100 foot temporary unit provides both fixed cells as well as dorm space and is divided by a middle wall which would allow male and female prisoners to be housed on different sides of the same structure.
"We have 50 employees and 130 inmates and can't continue to operate the facility this way" said Ward.
He said that the county could be put in a position where it would need as many as four more temporary structures during construction of a facility if it involves extensive renovation or repairs of the current structure.
The county will also need to make major changes in the way it handles its inmate population in order to comply with new federal standards which will take effect at the start of 2014.
Ward said that those standards, developed as a result of the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), which was passed in 2003 with unanimous support from both parties in Congress, cover all prisons, as well as local jails, police lockup and juvenile facilities.
He said that were the standards were in place today there is no way that the county facility could meet all of them, particularly a requirement that juvenile inmates be separated by sight and sound from the general inmate population and that they be offered the same level of programs as other inmates.
He said that some of the provisions of the law which require administrative actions such as staff training, naming a PREA coordinator and providing informational material about sexual assaults to inmates can be met. But other areas are problematic due to the configuration of the facility which does not allow line of sight supervision in all areas.

Last Updated on Friday, 06 December 2013 02:07

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