Contract talks between school bus drivers & First Student resume

BELMONT — A media representative from First Student, Inc of Cincinnati, Ohio said Friday that talks in Washington DC between the Teamsters Union and First Student were productive.

"We presented them with a comprehensive proposal that includes wage and benefit enhancements, said spokesman Chris Kemper. "We're optimistic the matter will be resolved. Our goal remains to provide the best possible transportation service to the school districts we serve."
Employees of the the First Student facility in Belmont are working without a contract and have threatened to strike the company.
Represented by the Teamsters Local 633, the employees main bone of contention appears to be contributions to the pension fund and some contributions and salaries they claim in a federal law suit that the company failed to pay during their last contract.
First Student Belmont provides school bus service to Laconia, Belmont Gilmanton and Gilford schools and superintendents of those schools are working to come up with a contingency plan should the employees strike.
There has been some concern throughout the state that First Student employees from other facilities may join the strike should one happen.
Employees had agreed not to strike the company until the Dec. 2 or yesterday, which was when the two sides were set to reconvene.

Gilford school budget war resumes at full force

GILFORD — The Budget Committee refused to listen to the School District's 2017-2018 budget proposal Thursday night, continuing the battle between the two agencies that began last year and has extended into this year.

Thursday night's disagreement was about the so-called default budget, specifically about the difference between what the actual budget for 2016 was and what was spent in each line item. This year, the School District is operating under a default budget because voters rejected the budget proposed for 2016-2017.

The administration build its proposed default budget for 2017-2018 not on what was approved by voter's for the current year, but what is actually being spent.

For example, if a text book line had $1,000 in it in the default budget, but the district has spent $2,000 in that line over the course of this school year, the Budget Committee wants to see the actual budgeted allocation in the default budget with an additional column that shows the excess actually spent.

Chair Norm Silber explained that the Budget Committee doesn't necessarily disagree with the need to spend $2,000 but doesn't want the amount spent to be reflected in the default budget. It wants the amount initially budgeted.

Personal animosity between Silber and Assistant Superintendent Scott Isabelle also flared up when Isabelle went to answer a question and Silber made a motion that Isabelle swear under oath that what he is saying is true before being allowed to speak.

The motion was seconded but failed by a five-to-five vote and Isabelle was allowed to speak without swearing under oath.

Silber and some members of the Budget Committee were disappointed with the preparation of the 2016-2017 year's default budget and felt it included things it shouldn't have. At the 2016 deliberative session, voters made motions to restore all the cuts made by the committee, including a cut from a 3 percent raise for non union workers to 1.5 and longevity bonuses for top tier administrators, and added $80,000 for a language arts teacher. But on Town Meeting day voters rejected the amended budget proposal in favor of the lower default budget.
Once the budget went into effect, the School Board found the money to pay the 3 percent raises and the longevity bonuses within other line items.

The Budget Committee doesn't want those bonuses compounding as many of its members believe that a default budget shouldn't include any raises, except those that are contractual like those included in collective bargaining agreements.

In addition, because of the problems many members of the Budget Committee feel occurred in preparing last year's default budget, they feel that this year's represents an inadequate place to start.

On Thursday, the board voted 9 to 2 to not allow school administrators continue on with their budget presentation and the meeting ended.

Forrester running for state GOP chairmanship

MEREDITH — State Senator Jeanie Forrester has put her hat in the ring for election to be the state Republican Party chairman, according to her Facebook page.

Forester, who was defeated by Governor-elect Chris Sununu in the  primary race for governor, served for three terms in the Senate representing District 2, rising to be the chairman of the Finance Committee in her last term.

Forester said her goal is to make New Hampshire "red" again by growing and energizing the grass roots of the Republican Party and raising money to compete with the Democratic "DC money machine."

She said she will promote a GOP agenda of prosperity, growth and opportunity and hold elected Democrats to account for their bad decisions, which hurt working families across the Granite State.

Forrester's candidacy was endorsed Friday by Senate President Chuck Morris (Salem). "As chair of our party, I know Jeanie will be a tremendous spokesperson to fight for the principles that we hold dear and that she will continue the expansion and development of grassroots networks," he said.

Forrester hopes to fill the shoes of former N.H. GOP leader Jennifer Horn who announced Thursday she will be leaving the post at the end of the year. Horne goes out of office with a mixed record. While under her leadership, the Republicans were able to regain control of the corner office after more than a decade of Democratic governors, the party was unable to maintain possession of one of its U.S. Senate seats, which incumbent Kelly Ayotte lost to Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan, and the N.H. Congressional District 1 seat, which incumbent Frank Guinta lost to Democrat Carole Shea Porter.

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