Comissioners tell convention more budget transfers will be needed (379)

LACONIA — The Belknap County Convention's Executive Committee approved a half dozen line item budget transfers when it met Wednesday afternoon at the Belknap County complex, including $95,000 for an increase in the so-called New Hampshire Bed Tax which is based on a percentage of the revenues received by the Belknap County Nursing Home.
County Administrator Debra Shackett said that the nursing home received more revenue than originally projected in this year's budget and will have to pay a 5.5 percent tax on the additional income.
Rep. Frank Tilton (R-Laconia) observed that the Bed Tax was enacted "'as a gimmick when we started to tax hospitals and give money back to them," a device used in many states to obtain more Medicare funds.
Other budget transfers approved included $52,225 for part-time and overtime wages in nursing home employees from the full-time wage account, $1,035 for the nursing home retirement account from the full-time wage account, $12,000 from the full-time wage account to professional management services to pay for the services of a New London firm hired to manage the nursing home until a full-time administrator is hired, $14,700 for dispatcher wages and overtime in the Sheriff's Department from the wages for full-time deputies account and $800 for vehicle maintenance at the nursing home from the new equipment budget line.
It was explained that the a truck used by the nursing home for snow plowing broke down recently and needs to be repaired as soon as possible so that it will be available this winter.
County Commissioners told the committee members that additional budget transfers will be needed by the end of the year, including $75,000 for medical services and supplies for the corrections department, $8,544.23 for wages in the county attorney's office, $3,600 for medical services in the county attorney's office and $5,000 for electricity for the register of deeds office.
Commission Chairman David DeVoyy (R-Sanbornton) said that the major increase in the medical services for the corrections department, which was originally budgeted for $150,000, is accounted for in large part by medical services required by inmates which were provided at Lakes Region General Hospital and Dartmouth-Hithcock Medical Center as well as anticipated bills from Horizons Counseling Center, which is working with the department on a pilot program for substance abusers designed to give them treatment prior to court action involving their cases.

$2M fix - Gilford wants bond for elementary school retrofit

GILFORD —The School Board has approved a $26,030,568 budget for school year 2016-2017, up 2.5 percent from this year's budget of $24,264,335 or $643,848.
The board is asking taxpayers to support a $2 million bond that will be used for mechanical, electrical and HVAC upgrades to the Gilford Elementary School. It will appear as a warrant article on the annual ballot
Superintendent Kent Hemingway said the board had talked initially about spending about $400,000 a year over the next five years for the upgrades but decided that taking one bond would be preferable because all of the systems could be interconnected and contractors wouldn't have to go back each year to reconnect and upgrade the newest projects. Hemingway said the borrowing rates are also very favorable.
Hemingway also noted the original engineering called for a wood-chip plant, but once the district performed an emergency replacement of the boiler about three years ago the board eliminated it from further consideration.
"The final project will be under $2 million," Hemingway said, noting the school was built in 1939 and this is a 30- to 50-year project.
The proposed budget included the first year's bond payment that could be $35,167 for a 10-year bond at 3 percent or $41,028 for a 15-year bond at 3.5 percent.
In other budget items, Hemingway said there is a maximum increase of 3 percent or $142,000 in health insurance factored into the proposed budget. The maximum increase is used for compiling the budget but the actual increase rate won't be available until after the budget is well into the SB2 budget process.
The district is in its third year of a three-year contract with the Gilford Education Association and the budget includes a 2.5 percent increase in salaries or $87,585. Hemingway said there are no mandatory statutory increases in the contribution to the state retirement system, keeping it at $54,000.
Even though enrollments increased slightly this year and are predicted to stay level or slightly increase over the next few years said Hemingway, the district lost one language arts teaching position for the middle school. The purchase of the K-through-8 math program is completed, meaning the district will not be spending $69,780 in the next budget year.
Maintenance projects are projected to cost $216,700 and include $165,000 for paving of the Gilford Elementary School parking lot, $24,000 for carpet computer labs at the high school, $7,200 for circulation pumps, $6,500 for stairwell cameras, and $14,000 to replace the 2005 lawn mower for the district.
The Budget Committee has been working in subcommittees on each individual school budget and a budget hearing is scheduled for Jan. 12 at 7 p.m. at Gilford High School.

Christmas Village Turns 40

LACONIA — This evening, the Community Center will become another world, filled with the symbols and enlivened by the spirit of Christmas, when for the 40th year the Christmas Village opens its doors to young and old.

Begun in 1975 by Dick Tappley, then director of Parks and Recreation, who followed the example set by his father in Bristol, the tradition has been sustained ever since by the Bolduc brothers — Armand and Ernie — and their friend Bob Hamel, who each year have led the team of volunteers, including some 60 to 70 elves, that constructs the village and provides its hospitality.

It's a lot work," Hamel said. "But, it's all worth when you see those kids come through the curtain and their faces light up."

He estimates that some 6,000 man hours are required to set up and take down the village. In addition, decorating and stocking the village costs about $8,000 a year, a significant share of which is born by a number of anonymous donors as well as a contribution from the Children's Auction.
As children gather to wait their turn to enter the village, they are entertained with face painting, games, crafts, movies and even "Santa's Jail" under the watchful eyes longtime volunteer Sharon Cavanaugh and a band of sprightly elves.
Every child leaves laden with an ornament, turned from wood rescued from the Allen-Rogers factory, a Christmas gift, and personal letter from Santa, bearing the postmark "Christmas Village, Laconia N.H. 03246-1/2. Plus, gallons of pink lemonade and 600 dozen cookies are served at "Santa's Sidewalk Cafe."
Hamel estimated that some 2,500 children visit the Christmas Village each year.

"If you count the parents and senior citizens, nearly a quarter of a million people have passed through the village in the last 40 years," he said.
The Christmas Village will be open to the public Thursday, Dec. 3, and Friday, Dec. 4, from 6 until 8 p.m.; and on Saturday, Dec. 5, and Sunday Dec. 6, from 2 until 5 p.m. The village will be open to senior citizens on Saturday between 10 a.m. and noon, and to those with disabilities on Sunday between 10 a.m. and noon.