City manager presents budget that promises spending increases while keeping under tax cap

By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA —While keeping within the tight bounds of the tax cap, City Manager Scott Myers, last night recommended a city budget for fiscal year 2017 that would would increase total expenditures by 3.4 percent and infrastructure investment by 10.4 percent.

The manager's proposed city budget of $23,585,193, represents an increase of $779,732, which includes funding a 2.5 percent cost-of-living adjustment for city employees and a 9.71 percent increase in health insurance contributions while increasing spending for capital projects by $177,000, from $1,698,000 this year to $1,875,000 next year.

The rate of inflation was a mere 0.1 percent, representing additional spending of just $41,170, but the $32 million of value in new construction added $710,402. Altogether, the tax cap permits an increase of $751,572 in the amount to be raised by property taxes, of which $292,583 is allotted to the city, $410,983 to the school district and $48,006 to the county.

At the same time, the county assessment dropped by $128,195, increasing the share of the permitted increase in the amount to be raised by property taxes to the city by $176,201, from $16,009,430 to $16,185,630.

Meanwhile, revenues from sources other than property taxes are projected to rise by 4.4 percent, from $7,088,614 to $7,399,525, or by $310,911. Proceeds from motor vehicle registrations are expected to increase by $185,000 while transfers from the state, Rooms and Meals Tax receipts and Highway Block Grants add another $76,000. Charges for city services, up 4.4 percent to $53,244, account for most the balance.

In other words, with the decrease in the county assessment and the increase in revenue from sources other than property taxes, Myers proposes spending more than twice what the tax cap permits while budgeting within the limits it imposes on the amount to be raised by property taxes.

Myers recommended applying $1,500,000 to street repairs, which includes $100,000 appropriated but unexpended for winter maintenance, and suggested drawing on another $600,000 from contingency. In addition, he proposed allocating $75,000 to design the construction of Court Street, $25,000 for sidewalk improvements, $25,000 for replacing fencing and guardrails, $100,000 for drainage upgrades, $20,000 the ongoing study of drainage problems, $30,000 for bridge maintenance and $100,000 toward the total cost of $368,000 to upgrade radio towers for emergency communications.

In addition, Myers proposed borrowing $1 million to fund the reconstruction of 2,200 feet of Lakeside Avenue, a project that will included improvements to the sewer and drainage systems, $300,000 for upgrades to the drainage on Messer Street north of the Winnipesaukee River and $3 million for repairs and enhancements to the downtown parking garage.

With the proposed school district budget of $37,994.497 the grand total appropriation of $64,703,008 represents an increase of 1 percent. Less total revenues of $26,66,672, the total amount to be raised by local property taxes is $38,041,336, and increase of $690,921 or 1.8 percent, which represents a projected tax rate of $19.86 based on a n assessed valuation of $1,915,868,173. Withe state education property tax of $4,462,978, levied at a rate of $2.37, the projected tax rate would be $22.23, an increase of three cents.

Witnesses for state’s case against alleged home invader are no shows at court

LACONIA — A Belknap County Superior Court judge has conditionally said that two of the prosecution witnesses against the man accused of a home invasion in June of 2014 will not be testifying if the state is unable to produce them within one week.

The two men were in a Harvard Street home when police said  two men, one of whom was Tyler Twombly, 31, formerly of Concord, entered the home and committed robbery. One of the two men fired a gun that the state says injured one of the witnesses.

In court Monday, both of the attorneys who are assigned to the two witnesses were there and both said they had had no contact with their clients. Twombly attorney Mark Sisti insisted that if the state couldn't produce them in a week, they should be removed from the witness list.

County Attorney Melissa Guldbrandsen said police are looking for the men, but so far have been unable to locate them. One of them was served a subpoena but was not in court and one had not been served. She asked for an additional week to produce them.

"This is another delay caused by the state and the state's witnesses," said Sisti, who added the state has tried twice to get them to court and there is no reasonable expectation that they will be found.

Judge James O'Neill said that he would give the state one more week but was inclined to agree with Sisti.

Sisti and Guldbrandsen also discussed whether or not Joshua Pike, 29, of Laconia, who has been charged with conspiring with Twombly, but has not been indicted, should be given immunity to testify for the defense.

Sisti told the court that Pike called his office without notice a few weeks ago and told him "emphatically that Twombly had nothing to do with it."

Pike is an eyewitness to the event and told police he arrived at the home just before the invasion. Police have said that Pike was a co-conspirator with Twombly and deliberately let him and a third, as yet unidentified man, into the house.

Sisti said that the three men to whom the state wants to give immunity from prosecution were running a drug operation from the home and that two of the three of them are blocking immunity while the one witness who will testify that his client was not there is not being protected.

"The state can't just cherry pick (who they give immunity to)," Sisti said, noting there is no identification of Twombly by anyone the state plans to call, and the DNA the state plans to use against Twombly is not conclusive because the seized items of clothing have more than one person's DNA on them.

"There is no identity at the scene and if Pike testifies, it's all over," said Sisti.

Guldbrandsen told the court this case has "a lot of moving parts" including the fact that Pike gave conflicting statements to the police. She she the men who entered the home had covered their faces so Pike couldn't possibly identify or exonerate one of them because he didn't see their faces, either.

She reiterated that the state has reason to think that Pike and Twombly were co-conspirators and the defense hasn't given her office a good enough reason to grant him immunity.

Trial is scheduled for May 16.

Mmm-mmm good

04-12 Soupathon

Barbara Madden serves a bowl of red lentil soup, while Sheila Akerstrom ladles carrot soup into a bowl at the Hands Across the Table Soupathon, held on Friday night at the Sacred Heart Parish Hall in Laconia. The annual event raises funds to benefit a free weekly meal, also served at the Parish Hall, on Wednesday nights. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Adam Drapcho)

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