A+ A A-

Gilmanton teachers will get raises but pick up more of health insurance costs under terms of new deal

GILMANTON — A new collective bargaining agreement with teachers was one of the key budget items on the minds of town Budget Committee Wednesday night when it got its first look at the proposed 2014-2015 School District budget.

The negotiated contract with the Gilmanton Teachers Association is a three-year deal that will add an estimated $26,777 to the bottom line in 2014-15, $55,562 to the budget in 2015-16, and $72,825 more to the budget in 2016-17.

Significant, at least to Budget Committee member Richard Bakos, is the compromise reached whereby over the three years of the contract teachers will begin paying for a portion of the premiums for their health insurance.

"We heard loud and clear that health care was a concern," said board member Renee Kordas, recalling Bakos's statements about health insurance costs last year.

She said one change in the 2015-2017 contract — the money portions of which will be voted on by the electorate at during the ballot portion of the annual School District meeting — is leaving the Local Government Center for health insurance and joining with School Care, which is managed by Cigna.

Key to the new plan is the elimination of the $1 three-month mail-away prescription program said Kordas — a program that Kordas said was something many teachers used and that was critical to the negotiations.

For the first time, teachers who have a single-person plan will start paying a portion of the premiums for their health coverage. In the first year of the contract single plan holders will contribute 5 percent, two-person plan holders will contribute 20 percent, and family-plan holders will contribute 25 percent.

Kordas explained that the teacher contributions to the health insurance plan will adjust annually so that by the third year every one who participates in health insurance will be paying at least 15 percent of the premium.

The teachers also negotiated a 6.09 percent pay increase over the three years of the contract — much of which for many will be offset in terms of take-home pay by the restructured health insurance plan.

Right now the School District pays 100 percent of the insurance premiums for a basic single-person plan and the rest of the teacher contributions are based on a scale that is conditioned by which plan they choose and how many people are insured under it.

Kordas also said the new School Care contract has three plans from which to choose as opposed to the "many" plans offered by the Local Government Center.

Bakos applauded the School District for "making great strides", saying that Gilmanton town employees pay 20-percent of the premiums for their health insurance and those in the private sector average paying around 35 percent.

Kordas said the new health insurance plan will save the district $23,000 in the first year, however she said she would be reluctant to guess at the savings for years two and three because it's too hard to predict that far out in time.

Bakos also wanted to know if the newly negotiated plan was "Obama-mandated", meaning it meets the parameters of the Affordable Care Act and Kordas said it was.

Superintendent John Fauci said yesterday that the para-educators who are not unionized typically "don't get as rich of a plan" as do the teachers. He said the rest of the school's employees vary but the administration usually takes plans similar to the union's.

Last Updated on Friday, 13 December 2013 02:04

Hits: 307

Police sweep nets 13 suspects charged with drug crimes

LACONIA — Police charged 13 people with various counts of sales of illegal drugs in a second annual round-up staged yesterday morning.

Capt. Bill Clary, who heads the city Bureau of Criminal Investigations or detective bureau said four detectives, four patrol officers, himself and Lt. Al Lessard got warrants and simultaneously arrested eight people in eight separate addresses early Thursday morning.

A ninth alleged drug dealer was taken into custody by Gilford Police and handed over to the Laconia Police. Four of those charged yesterday are already in the Belknap County House of Corrections.

He said most if not all of yesterday's arrests are for alleged drug sales that occurred over the past nine months. He said most of those arrested had no idea what was happening because it was something they had allegedly done months or weeks ago.

"They were all completely dumbfounded and flabbergasted," said Clary, who noted that the surprise raids are deliberately timed to occur around 6 a.m. or just after dawn.

"I'm happy with the way it turned out," Clary said. "Nobody got hurt."

This is the second drug arrest sweep in the city in less than a year. In February, city police working with other area police departments rounded up 13 different people in four different communities charging them all with a variety of drug sales.

Clary said that it's been 18 months since the Laconia City Council added a police officer position to the department for the sole purpose of investigating and curtailing drug activity in the city.

"We want it to be very clear that this kind of action (drug dealing) isn't going to be tolerated," Clary said.

He said the sales charges against each person involved a variety of drugs ranging from marijuana to cocaine, heroin, and oxycodone.

Charged this morning were Melissa M. Sylvia, 34, of 31 Merrimac St. — four counts of sales of narcotics; Joshua E. Shoemaker, 35, of 54 A Spring Street — two counts of sales of narcotics; Sheila Berube, 45, of 1 Gilford Place #219 — two counts of sales of narcotics; John Woodbury, 19, of 44 Taylor St. — one count of sale of narcotics; Ryan Sheedy, 32, of 177 Gold St. — one count of possession of narcotics; Paul A. Young, 46, of 18 Fair St. — two counts of sales of narcotics; Joshua Burley, 26, two counts of sales of narcotics; Tyler Olisky, 17, of 11 Clay St — resisting arrest and sales of controlled drug; David Paul Jr., 29, of 45 Fair St. #1 — one count of possession of narcotics; Nicholas Murray, 25, of the Belknap County House of Corrections — one count of sales of a narcotic; Joseph Desbien, 41, of the Belknap County HOC — one count of sales of a narcotic; Joseph Morrissette, 24, of the Belknap County HOC — one count of sales of narcotics; and Albert Rama, 29, of the Belknap County HOC — one count of sales of narcotics.

Last Updated on Friday, 13 December 2013 01:44

Hits: 2988

Momentum building for city putting $400,000 into second phase of WOW Trail but details of TIF spending on riverwalk still up in air

LACONIA — After weighing the recommendations of the Downtown Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District Advisory Board for the eighth time at a special meeting this week, the City Council inched closer to approving a borrowing to finance construction of stretches of the WOW Trail and downtown riverwalk.

After winnowing its original proposal to five projects, the board recommends investing $400,000 to extend the WOW Trail between Main Street and Fair Street, $25,000 to add signage and kiosks to the riverwalk and WOW Trail, $181,000 to connect the Main Street Bridge to the riverwalk behind the Landmark Inn, $121,800 to extend the riverwalk through the adjuacent Walgreen's property, and $300,000 to carry the riverwalk from behind the old police station (now Binnie Media) up to the Church Street bridge.

In August, the council agreed to spend $275,000 improving the area at the foot of Main Street, in order to ensure that the improvements were incorporated into the design for reconstructing the Main Street Bridge. In October the council approved spending $35,000 to extend a 10 inch water main from Main Street to Veteran's Square to service the former Evangelical Baptist Church, which is being converted to a restaurant.

Altogether the estimated cost of the seven projects is $1,337,800. They would be funded by borrowing $1,350,000 against the annual revenue to the TIF account at an estimated interest rate of four-percent over 20 years. The TIF account has a current balance of $311,353 and projected revenue of $173,687 in 2014 and an additional amount each year thereafter for a total of $4,250,212 during the next 20 years. City Manager Scott Myers has assured the council that the revenue accruing to the TIF fund is sufficient to service the proposed debt and, within a reasonable time, support another borrowing.

The council deferred its decision on what projects to approve and expenditures to authorize, but agreed to revisit the issue when it meets on December 23. Although the projects may be approved by simple majority vote, a two-thirds majority vote will be required to authorize the borrowing to finance them.

At the special meeting this week, Councilor Brenda Baer (Ward 4) questioned investing in the WOW Trail while Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3) suggested that the riverwalk along the north bank should be completed before beginning work on the stretch on the south bank.

Although Baer expressed her support for the WOW Trail, she doubted that it would contribute to revitalizing downtown, which is the purpose of the TIF fund. Warren Murphy, past chairman of the Planning Board and resident of South Down Shores, also said that while he favored the trail, he advised against applying public funds to the project.

Public investment at an unprecedented level would lend an additional measure of momentum and legitimacy to the project, the next phase of which is planned to cross the western shore of Paugus Bay, where many property owners at South Down Shores are set on resisting it.

On the other hand, the Belknap Economic Development Council, which prepared a study projecting that once complete the WOW Trail would bring $1.8-million a year to the city, and the Main Street Initiative urged the council to fund the project.

Alan Beetle, president of the WOW Trail, told the council that the private WOW Trail board has raised $300,000 and with $400,000 in municipal funding could raise the additional $200,000 required to construct the second phase of the trail, from Main Street to the Belmont town line, in 2014. Without the city's contribution, he said that the project could take between four and six years.

Lipman proposed deferring expenditure for the segment of the riverwalk running through the Walgreen's property on the south bank of the river, explaining that it "doesn't go anywhere" because those to either side of it are not yet on the construction schedule. His view was shared by the Main Street Initiative, which in a written statement called for completing the riverwalk on the the north bank before investing any TIF funds on the south bank.

However, Planning Director Shanna Saunders said that she since easements on two adjacent privately owned lots are being negotiated and the city owns the Meredith Bridge Cemetery the riverwalk along the south bank could be completed to Fair Street Bridge relatively soon.

The Main Street Initiative repeated its request to complete the section of the riverwalk connecting Beacon Street West (the former Allen-Rogers property) to Main Street, intended to cross the mouth of the Perley Canal near the Main Street Bridge, which the advisory board did not include on its list. Saunders explained that the project was omitted because the original plan for the crossing was a "concept" and an alternate route was later chosen.

Saunders said that Chinburg Builders, the developer of Beacon Street West, originally intended to reconstruct a building over the canal that collapsed under a snowload and incorporate the riverwalk in the project as a cantilevered walkway over the water. However, the firm abandoned it plan to rebuild and chose to convert the large commercial building on the property to apartments. As part of its site plan, Chinburg proposed an alternate route for the riverwalk, which the Planning Board approved in 2008. Instead of following the riverbank, the pathway will pass through the residential complex to join Beacon Street West significantly north of the bridge.

John Moriarty, president of the Main Street Initiative, said that he learned that the route had been changed in advance of this week's meeting but chose to present the recommendation in hopes that the original route will ultimately be followed.

Jack Terrill, a resident of the Beacon Street West condominiums, told the council that the segment of the riverwalk bordering the development should be fenced on the north side. "We have a trespassing issue until we establish a perimeter," he said, adding that with a fence "we (residents) would have a backyard of our own."

Saunders and Kevin Dunleavy, who chairs the advisory board, were surprised by the request. Dunleavy told the council that in designing the riverwalk fencing on the side away from the water was not anticipated. Beacon Street West is only one of a number of privately owned properties on both banks of the river where easements have accommodated the riverwalk.

Last Updated on Friday, 13 December 2013 01:40

Hits: 264

Newfound told its been improperly handling trust funds for years

By Thomas P. Caldwell
BRISTOL — The Newfound Area School Board hopes to address a technical problem with funds administration by drafting a warrant article to establish a trustee for those accounts.
School Administrative Unit 4 Business Administrator Michael Limanni told the school board on Monday that the N.H. Department of Revenue Administration has been unable to find a record of the district voting to name the Town of Bristol as the trustee of those funds, although the town is the appropriate body to oversee the funds, and has been doing so for years. He said none of the votes to establish the various trust funds named a trustee as required by law.
Vice-Chair Ruby Hill of Danbury said she cannot imagine the seven towns that make up the Newfound Area School District agreeing to place the money with a single town, saying she would prefer to have a trustee from each town administering the funds. She later offered a motion to direct an attorney to draft a suitable warrant article to address the problem, with one of the options being to establish a board comprising one trustee from each town.
Chair Vincent Paul Migliore asked Limanni whether the school board could administer the funds but Limanni said it needed to be an independent party. The DRA said Bristol is the appropriate party since that is where the central office is located.
The trustee of trust funds serves to ensure that money appropriated for a specific purpose is utilized for that purpose and is not applied to other areas outside the scope of the trust fund. The district has a number of expendable trust accounts and contingency funds, as well as scholarships and other funds that currently are held in an investment pool. In order to access those funds, the district must ask the trustee for their release.
Limanni, recently hired as the business administrator for SAU 4, said that, in reviewing the district's finances, he discovered the problem and the DRA told him the district needed to address the issue to comply with the law. According to statute, the district should have named a trustee when it formed, or when the first fund was established; however, officials have been unable to find any record of the district having done so.
While the DRA said the trustee should be the Town of Bristol, the Newfound board probably could name any of the towns as trustee, although the DRA would have to approve the decision, Limanni said.
The business administrator agreed to draft some sample warrant articles to run by an attorney as a way of avoiding the cost of having an attorney draft an article from scratch.
In other business, board members who serve on both the SAU 4 Board and the Newfound Area School Board — both of which met on Monday — reviewed the proposed SAU and school district budgets, reiterating some disagreement on the spending.
Although the Newfound board already voted for a proposed 2014-2015 budget that now is being reviewed by the school district budget committee, some members would like to see further cuts.
During the School Administrative Unit 4 Board meeting, Lloyd Belbin of Bristol said he could not understand why, with 61 fewer pupils in the district, the superintendent was looking to add a $100,000 curriculum coordinator. (The position actually would pay $80,000 plus benefits.)
Superintendent Stacy Buckley said she was reducing other areas of the budget to fund the position which she felt was essential in bringing the curriculum in line between schools so each grade would be receiving appropriate instruction. Students from outlying schools currently have some difficulty when reaching the middle school because of differing levels of instruction.
When Belbin said, "Kids today don't get the basics," Buckley replied, "That's because no one oversees the K-12 curriculum to see that it happens."
When asked who currently is responsible for curriculum, Buckley said it's part of the superintendent's job, but with other duties, she and the previous superintendents have not had sufficient time to properly address it.
Hill agreed: "It wasn't really getting done with the superintendent trying to do it."
Limanni reiterated that the curriculum coordinator's position was being funded by reallocating the budget and he pointed out that the total proposed budget is $150,000 lower than the current-year spending.
During the Newfound board meeting, another position that met with some opposition was that of a $72,500 school resource officer. While the school district would be funding the SRO position, the officer would be part of the Bristol Police Department.
Belbin repeated his opposition to that position as not being necessary and as something to further increase the school district budget.
Some members of the Newfound Area School District Budget Committee, including former Alexandria Police Chief Harold "Skip" Reilly, also have voiced opposition to the SRO position.
Belbin noted that, despite the school district having reduced the current-year budget, declining student enrollment and the resulting reduction in state aid resulted in the school tax rate increasing by $1 per $1,000 of net assessed valuation, and Bristol taxpayers have been asking why. Other school board members agreed that it is difficult to explain the increased taxes to their constituents.
Migliore said he personally objected to the use of the term "level-funded" when comparing the budget proposal to the previous year. "When we educate fewer kids with the same budget, I don't consider that 'level-funded'," he said.

Last Updated on Thursday, 12 December 2013 02:11

Hits: 280

The Laconia Daily Sun - All Rights Reserved
Privacy Policy
Powered by BENN a division of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Login or Register