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Tax cap means city has a big stake in county budget fight

LACONIA — Apart from the 268 county employees no one has a greater stake in the outcome of the struggle over the 2014 Belknap County budget than officials of the City of Laconia, who could be faced with squeezing unforeseen expenditures of nearly $176,000 within the bounds of the property tax cap.

The Belknap County Commission has proposed budget of $26,570,997, which would raise $14,445,359 in property taxes, an increase of four-percent.

In defense of their budget the commissioners have explained that it represents an increase in expenditures since 2008 of only 1.5-percent. Moreover, they calculate that the increase in the amount to be raised by property taxes would raise the county tax rate by five or six cents in the eleven municipalities in the county. The higher rates would add to the annual property tax bill of the owner of a $300,000 home by amounts ranging from $13.68 in Belmont to $18.25 in Meredith.

In Laconia. the county tax rate would climb by six cents from $1.47 to $1.53 and increase the tax bill on a $300,000 home by $17.81. "Six cents to me as an individual taxpayer doesn't sound like a big deal," said Mayor Ed Engler. "But, multiply that over the whole city and its nearly $110,000. Because of our tax cap," he continued, "the City Council must approach this from the perspective of the whole city, not as individual taxpayers."

The tax cap limits the annual increase in the amount raised by property taxes, including the county tax, to the rate of inflation, measured by the Consumer Price Index — Urban (CPI-U), for the prior calendar year, plus an additional amount representing the value of new construction, which is calculated by multiplying the value of building permits less the value of demolition permits issued between April 1 and March 31 by the prior year's property tax rate.

Applying a CPI-U of 1.5-percent against the 2013-2014 tax commitment of $39,8-million, City Manager Scott Myers calculates that the rate of inflation will allow $597,500 of additional expenditures in 2014-2015. Likewise, he estimates that $15-million in the assessed value of new construction will permit another $331,200 in increased spending. Altogether, Myers projects the amount to be raised by taxes can rise by $928,700, or 2.3 percent, which is divided proportionally between the city, schools and county.

Last year the county apportionment of $2,655,238 was 6.6 percent of the total amount to be raised by property taxes in the city If the share of the county tax remained constant and rose in pace with the tax cap allowance, it would be projected to increase by approximately $61,500 in 2014. Any greater increase in the county tax must be offset by reducing expenditures elsewhere in the municipal/school budget to comply with the limits of the tax cap.

While the county budget proposed by the commission may add pennies to the county tax rate, it would increase the city's apportionment by more than $107,000.

Furthermore, this year the county has eliminated the appropriation for the city and 10 towns belonging to the Lakes Region Mutual Fire Aid Association (LRMFAA) from its budget. Instead of being billed through the county tax, the municipalities will be billed directly by the LRMFAA according to a formula consisting of the sum of three factors — a fixed charge, assessed value and total population. As a result, the cost to Laconia will rise from $106,731 to $130,000.

Taken together, the $107,000 increase in the county apportionment and the appropriation for the LRMFAA amount to more than $237,000. Less the $61,500 projected to fund the anticipated increase in the county apportionment, the commissioners' budget would raise city expenditures by about $175,500. This represents almost a fifth of the additional spending allowed by the tax cap and would have to be offset by commensurate reductions in the city budget.

"The commissioners' budget would force the city to rob Peter to pay Paul," said Rep. Frank Tilton (R-Laconia), chairman of the executive committee of the Belknap County Convention.

Acknowledging that the tax cap is a constraint the city chose to impose on itself, Engler said that "the county commission and convention have to appreciate where we're coming from."

The county convention is preparing a budget, which remains a work in progress. However, so far the convention has trimmed the commissions' budget by $858,350, virtually all of it in personnel costs. Currently the convention proposes to spend $25,712,64 and raise $13,551,598 in property taxes, a decrease of 2.4 percent.

The effect on the city would be to reduce its county apportionment by $66,883 — from $2,655,238 in 2013 to $2,588,355 in 2014. Setting the reduction against the $130,00 billed to the city by the LRMFAA leaves a outstanding balance of some $63,000, or approximately the increase in the county apportionment city officials projected.

In other words, the city would be able to meet its obligations to the county within the limits of the tax cap without offsetting reductions in either the city or school budgets.

"We're looking after the city's interests and the county's interests," Tilton remarked.

Engler said that the experience with the county budget foreshadows the challenges the city will face if and when the county commission and convention begin to address the renovation or reconstruction of the county jail.

Last Updated on Friday, 21 February 2014 01:38

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Ossipee man said to have performed striptease on Rte. 3 in Belmont

BELMONT — An Ossipee man gave a Belmont police officer quite a show Tuesday night when he decided to disrobe while being detained on Rte. 3 near Cupples Auto.

Nathan Laracuenti, 23, is charged with one count of indecent exposure and lewdness.

Police affidavits obtained from the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division said an officer was on patrol around 10 p.m. when he saw Laracuenti walking along Route 3. He said he appeared to be talking to himself and "seemed to be screaming at the sky."

Once the officer got out of his cruiser to see if Laracuenti was okay, he approached the officer in an aggressive manner and accused him of suspecting he was drunk.

Affidavits said the officer didn't detect any alcohol but said Laracuenti was highly agitated and that he suspected either some kind of mental illness or drug use.

While Laracuenti was yelling at the officer he started taking off his outer clothes and throwing them on the ground and on to the cruiser.

The office told him to stop it as "he was creating a scene" but by this time Laracuenti was shirtless and is said to have told the officer he was on a "mission from God."

When asked for identification, Laracuenti produced a passport and told him that he was from Ossipee.

Police said Laracuenti kept putting his hand in his pockets and the officer kept telling him to take his hands out of his pockets.

At that point, affidavits said Laracuenti began taking off his pants and the officer put him in handcuffs to stop him while he could wait for backup officer to arrive.

When the officer went back to his cruiser to give dispatch the information, Laracuenti allegedly shimmied out of his jeans while he was standing directly in front of the cruiser and was yelling at the officer to look at his private parts.

As the officer got out of his cruiser, Laracuenti began swinging back and forth and screaming at the officer to look at him.

The officer pulled Laracuenti's pants up and placed him in the back of the cruiser.
Police said Laracuenti was uncooperative when they brought him back to the police station for booking.

He was taken to the Belknap County jail and appeared yesterday morning by video. Judge Jim Carroll released him on $1,000 personal recognizance bail.

Last Updated on Friday, 21 February 2014 01:31

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3M company donates $50,000 to Boys & Girls Club

LACONIA — 3MGives — the charitable foundation of 3M Corporation — has awarded a cash grant in the amount of $50,000 to the Boys and Girls Club of the Lakes Region for their capital campaign. Each year, the company donates via cash or product donation through various initiatives, including working with premier groups positively impacting climate change and biodiversity, fostering healthy youth development, encouraging youth participation in math and sciences, and the arts.

In 2013 3M brought over half a million dollars into the Northern New England region alone out of some $61 million in cash and product donations globally.

The $50,000 grant to the Boys and Girls Club of Lakes Region represents the largest cash award to date secured by the Tilton 3M plant for the community.

"3M sees the Boys and Girls Club as a nationally recognized youth organization which develops future leaders and doers in America — and we are proud to support them," said Barry Livingstone, Tilton's community affairs secretary.

Outside the scope of the overall corporate giving, Tilton's 3M employees also volunteered at several local organizations. Participation in volunteering activities is encouraged for 3M employees and the local plant participated in activities such as the A Day of Caring program, performing arts programs, and food drives for local food pantries. "3M employees care a great deal about their communities," Livingstone added.
The Boys & Girls Club of the Lakes Region is part of a national network of affiliated Clubs. The national organization, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, began in 1860 with several women in Hartford Connecticut, believing that boys who roamed the streets should have a positive alternative, they organized the first Club. The Boys & Girls Club is a place, an actual neighborhood-based building designed solely for youth programs and activities. The Club is open every day, after school, when kids have free time and need positive, productive outlets.

A recognized leader in research and development, 3M produces thousands of innovative products for dozens of diverse markets. 3Mís core strength is applying its more than 40 distinct technology platforms, often in combination, and to a wide array of customer needs. With $23 billion in sales, 3M employs 75,000 people worldwide and has operations in more than 65 countries. For more information, visit www.3M.com, or follow @3MNews on Twitter.


CAPTION: 3M Employees Candy Robinson, together with Joseph LaPlante and Susan LaFlamme present Boys and Girls Club of the Lakes Region staff members Amber Royea (holding check) and Dana Leslie Meade (middle row second from right) a check for $50,000 to go toward their building fund. (Courtesy photo)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 15 October 2014 03:43

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Work underway to convert historic church to 'Holy Grail of the Lakes'

LACONIA — David and Maureen Kennedy are no strangers to the concept of an Irish pub. After all, Maureen was raised in a family that operated 13 of them in New York. When it came time for them to open their own establishment, they wanted to do something a little different: an Irish restaurant where the food is taken as seriously as the drinks. The Kennedys opened their first restaurant in Epping in 2008, purchasing a deconsecrated church and converting it to an eatery they named "The Holy Grail", a restaurant that has since become a destination for diners that  many miles for a visit.

This year, the Kennedys, along with business partner Khalid Farid, are hoping to replicate their success by opening a second restaurant in downtown Laconia.

Laconia wasn't their first choice for their second location. Other sites in Methuen, Mass. and Dover were considered, but both of those deals fell through when the Catholic Diocese objected to the sale of its former churches to a buyer that wanted to turn them into eateries. So, they refined their search to include only former churches of non-Catholic congregations. As fortune would have it, this renewed search for real estate coincided with the Evangelical Baptist Church of Laconia was moving from its 150 year-old building on Veterans Square to a larger facility in Lakeport. Upon further examination, David said Laconia seemed like the perfect spot. It's far enough away from Epping to not compete for the same diners, yet close enough that he could drive from one to the other in an emergency. And with attractions such as the lakes, skiing and Meadowbrook, David sees lots of potential diners passing through the city.

"People come here who have disposable income, they want to go out someplace nice," he said. "It's a prime spot, it has everything I would incorporate into my business plan if I could come up with the perfect spot. Plus, it has a church for sale."

They closed on sale of the property earlier this month.

The Holy Grail team also found a city that was enthusiastic about the development of the property. City Hall offices gave the restaurant the fast-track treatment for permits and applications. The City Council even agreed to help pay for the extension of a water main to the building so that the restaurant could install sprinklers, as required by code. With the permits in hand and the real estate transaction concluded, all that's left is the construction work to convert the church, built in 1863, to the Lakes Region's newest restaurant, the Holy Grail of the Lakes. The work began this week, and David estimates the project to take about seven months. He plans to preserve as much of the building's historic character as possible and expects to be able to seat around 175 diners.

As the name implies, Laconia's restaurant will strongly reflect the Epping establishment. David said the Holy Grail of the Lakes menu will be "Ninety-five percent the same as the Epping menu," with the remaining five percent reserved to feature local and seasonal ingredients. Diners should expect to find a selection of sandwiches, salads, pasta, steak and seafood dishes. The menu will also offer more traditional Irish fare, such as bangers and colcannon, fish & chips, shepherd's pie, Scotch eggs, and boiled dinner, either vegetarian or with corned beef. David said his cooks look for ways to incorporate Jameson whiskey, cider or beer in the cooking, such as their Guinness-marinated steak tips.

Speaking of beer, The Holy Grail of the Lakes figures to be one of the best places in the Lakes Region to drain a pint. The Epping restaurant has 26 draft beers on tap and David said there will be more than that in Laconia, as well as a few casks. None of those taps will be used to pour Budweiser, Miller or Coors products. Instead, The Holy Grail of the Lakes will boast a combination of Old World favorites — Bass, Guinness, Harp and Smithwick's — along with high-quality local brews.

When the Holy Grail of the Lakes opens, David hopes that local residents will continue to congregate at the building as they have since 1863, albeit for a more Earthly reason. "A church has always been part of the community, they've already been there, they know where it is," he said. "It will be a destination place."


 CAPTION for HOLY GRAIL CHURCH in AA: Construction has begun to transform the former Evangelical Baptist Church in Laconia's Veterans Square to The Holy Grail of the Lakes, an Irish restaurant. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Adam Drapcho)

Last Updated on Thursday, 20 February 2014 12:44

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