'Knife not going to be in my hand' commissioner tells delegation (812)

Some Belknap County Delegation members propose $1M cut to budget


LACONIA — Belknap County Commissioners expressed strong opposition Tuesday night to a proposal being floated by several members of the Belknap County Delegation to cut the proposed $28 million county budget by over $1 million.
"You're asking the impossible," said County Commission Chairman Dave DeVoy (R-Sanbornton). "The knife is not going to be in my hand. You guys are going to have to make that decision on what to cut," in response to a suggestion by Belknap County Delegation Chairman Herb Vadney (R-Meredith) that the delegation set a budget number and that commissioners then decide which line items should be cut.
DeVoy warned that the proposed cut would jeopardize plans to open a community corrections facility, which is bring built next to the current jail, this September.
Vadney insisted that the county has to look put for the taxpayers and "can't keep kicking these cans down the road." He suggested a budget of close to $27 million, adding that the county should use "the money which recently showed up" to make sure that the county remains solvent. He was referencing the $850,000 in additional operational savings which the commissioners announced the county had last week, after initially having only $250,000 in that line in the budget.
Mark Abear (R-Meredith) said that the $850,000 should be directed to deferred maintenance the county faces, such as new roof for the Belknap County Nursing Home, which will cost about $540,000.
He said that he is concerned about the declining fund balance for the county and said that the currently proposed budget increases taxes by about 7.5 percent. Abear said that, according to his calculations, every $130,000 used from the fund balance reduces taxes by 1 percent and that using $520,000 would reduce the projected tax increase to 3.5 percent.
Tim Lang (R-Sanbornton) said that he didn't think the delegation should give the commission a bottom-line budget without telling them where the cuts should come from.
DeVoy said that the crux of the problem is the additional $605,000 that the delegation used to reduce taxes last year. He said this year's taxes would only be up by 2 percent had that money been retained in the county fund balance.
Commissioners have proposed a $28,034,331 budget this year, which will see the amount to be raised by property taxes revert to the $13,837,174 raised in 2015, which is about $875,000 more than was raised last year. In order keep the increase to that level, the commissioners agreed to use $2,183,657 from the undesignated fund balance.
The proposed amount to be raised by taxes is 6.31 percent higher than last year's $12,963,440, a 6.74 decrease from 2015. The bulk of that decrease came in the form of using an additional $605,000 of fund balance to reduce taxes which the delegation adopted over objections by commissioners, raising the amount of the surplus used to reduce taxes to $2,380,000 last year.
The proposed budget numbers will change by the time the delegation meets next Tuesday as the commission will add some $136,000 to budget lines which department heads have asked for in recent weeks, as well as the $17,000 estimated impact of a contract with Teamsters Local 633 which the delegation approved Tuesday night.
During the discussion, Vadney said that "there's always some slop in a budget," which DeVoy denied, saying that the commission had worked very hard to develop a frugal but responsible budget.
Rep. Ray Howard, delegation vice chairman, proposed that the budget be set at $26.8 million, which he said represents an increase of about 4 percent over what actual spending was in 2016.
His proposal calls for cutting at least $220,000 in funding for outside agencies but other cuts were not specified.
DeVoy countered by saying that the county faces up $1 million in additional spending due to union contracts and health insurance, as well as funds for hiring four additional corrections officers as well as program providers at the county corrections facility when it opens in September. He said that all members of the delegation who voted for the $8 million bond issue in 2015 were aware that there would be additional costs for staffing.
He has proposed using the estimated $650,000 surplus from the bond issue to pay for replacing the roof at the Belknap County Nursing Home.
Also expressing support for reducing the proposed budget was Rep. Michael Sylvia (R-Belmont, who said that from his standpoint there are too many administrators in the county. Rep. Norm Silber (R-Gilford) said he won't support any increase in county taxes.
Rep. David Huot (D-Laconia) said that those who want to cut the budget should be specific about where they want to make budget cuts and said that it is important to look at what the people of Belknap County need and expect from county government. "This has to be about the people of the county, not the fund balance," said Huot.
Rep. Don Flanders (R-Laconia) said that he thinks the commissioners have produced a good budget that meets the needs of the people and which is one he can support.

From devastation to celebration

02-01 Winners Circle Auto

Winner's Circle Auto (Courtesy Tilton Police)

Winner’s Circle Auto relieved when police find stolen equipment within hours


TILTON — Winner's Circle Auto had one heck of a day Wednesday.

Tools, inspection stickers, 20-day plates, expensive diagnostics equipment and a new four-wheeler, worth approximately $40,000, were discovered to be missing yesterday morning at the auto sales business at 472 W. Main St., but thanks to cooperation between Tilton and Northfield police, the business got almost everything back within hours.

"The police department was awesome," said Mark Barton, comptroller for Winner's Circle Auto. "It was amazing. They did a great job."

Barton said whoever broke into the business did so overnight, and had to have been there at least two hours.

The business called police at 9 a.m., and while Tilton police were investigating, Northfield Police contacted them to report that they had received a call of a suspicious vehicle on Susan Lane. Northfield Police Chief John Raffaelly noticed the suspicious truck had a large amount of tools and a four-wheeler in the bed of the truck.

02-01 truck full of stolen goodsNorthfield Police stopped the driver, Scott Angers of Tilton, and found he had five outstanding arrest warrants and a suspended license, according to a Tilton Police Department press release. The vehicle was not registered and the plates did not belong on it. The driver was then arrested and the vehicle taken brought back to the Northfield Police Department.

During an inventory of the vehicle, Northfield officers noticed there were some papers in the vehicle with the name of Winner's Circle Auto in Tilton on them, according to the press release. They contacted Tilton Police and the calls between the suspicious vehicle in Northfield and the burglary in Tilton began to connect. Once back at Northfield, Tilton Police detectives and Northfield Police identified everything in the truck as the items that were stolen from Winner's Circle Auto.

"It was a great job by the Northfield Police Chief and the follow up by Tilton Police Detectives," said Tilton Police Chief Robert Cormier in the press release. "Their investigation on two totally unrelated calls coming together made a huge difference in this major theft case. We were able to bring it to a close within hours of occurring. Also, the loss of all the expensive tools and diagnostic equipment for this small auto business essentially left them crippled and unable to open for business today. The owners were very relieved and appreciative of everyone's help from both agencies."

02-01 Scott AngersScott Angers, 21, of 342 Lancaster Hill Road, Tilton, was arrested for five outstanding electronic bench warrants, from Franklin and Meredith. He will be held at Merrimack County Jail on cash bail until his arraignment in Franklin District Court Thursday.

Tilton Police detectives plan to seek felony grand jury indictments for Angers in Laconia Superior Court for the burglary and theft against Angers.


Big break for seniors?

Article urges increased property tax exemptions for elderly in Gilmanton


GILMANTON — Elderly property-owners could receive a bigger tax exemption, based on a petitioned article on the town warrant.
Voters will consider that and other articles at the deliberative session of Town Meeting on Saturday, Feb. 4, at 10 a.m., at the Gilmanton School.

Article 23 would change the real estate tax exemption for elderly residents. A Jan. 23 letter to the selectmen from Felix Barlik, a 27-year resident, explained a desire to update the tax exemptions.
"Recently, I became aware of the criteria being used by the town for the real estate tax exemption for the elderly (known in politically correct speech as 'seniors')," Barlik wrote. "I was surprised at how, in my opinion, they seemed unrealistic with regard to the realities of today's economic situation."
In 2004, the town's current criteria were approved in a petitioned article, Barlik wrote. Those criteria for tax exemptions included maximum net income for a single person of $20,000 (including Social Security); and $30,000 for a couple. Maximum net assets (less residence) were set at $75,000. The amount of tax exemption for those ages 65 to 75 was set at $60,000; for those 75 to 80, $80,000; and for those over 80, $100,000.
Barlik's article calls for maximum net income for a single person of $27,000 (including Social Security), a 35 percent increase; and $40,000 for a couple, a 33 percent increase. Maximum net assets (less residence) would be set at $120,000, a 60 percent increase. The amount of tax exemption for those ages 65 to 75 would be set at $80,000, a 33 percent increase; for 75 to 80, $100,000, a 25 percent increase; and for those over 80, $120,000, a 20 percent increase.
"I think we can all agree that there have been considerable economic changes over the last 13 years, and I felt that an upgrade in the criteria should be made," Barlik wrote. He used a comparison of the Northeast Region consumer price index from 2004 to 2016 to determine a 35 percent increase in the cost of living during the 13 years since the exemptions were last changed. The exemptions are limited to applicants who have been New Hampshire residents for at least three years; and in the case of married couples, for those who have been married for at least five consecutive years.
Other warrant articles include:
• Article 8: The proposed town budget of $3,614,691. If this article fails, a default budget of $3,649,393 will take effect. Based on passage of the town budget, the tax impact would be about $4.83 per $1,000 of assessed value, or $966 on a $200,000 property, town officials estimated. Assessed valuation in Gilmanton this year totals $452.1 million, according to the assessing department.
• Article 9: $48,750 for a forestry truck and fire pump skid unit, tapping a fire department forestry vehicle replacement capital reserve fund.
• Article 10: $17,500 for deposit in the self-contained breathing apparatus capital reserve fund established in 2011.
• Article 11: $8,000 to be deposited in the fire radio capital reserve fund established in 2015.
• Article 12: $34,000 for the purchase of two power cots for the fire rescue ambulances, to help lift patients.
• Article 13: $42,500 to purchase and equip a new police cruiser.
• Article 14: $60,000 to be deposited in the highway equipment capital fund established in 2006.
• Article 15: Establishing a capital reserve fund to pay for computer technology upgrades and to raise $20,000 to be deposited in the fund. (Not recommended by the Budget Committee.)
• Article 16: Authorizing the selectmen to establish or amend fees, with public hearings required before any fee changes are made.
• Article 17: $50,000 to be deposited in the bridge capital reserve fund established in 1995.
• Article 18: $26,210 to remove, repair and replace the playground at Crystal Lake Park in order to conform to safety and liability standards.
• Article 19: $5,422 to install a playground outside the Academy Building.
• Article 20: $24,000 for the statistical update of all properties to be deposited into the revaluation assessment update capital reserve fund.
• Article 21: $1,000 to fund milfoil abatement in Gilmanton lakes.
• Article 22: Auction of town properties.
• Article 23: Petitioned article to change the elderly real estate tax exemption.
• Article 24: Petitioned article to raise $48,500 for the Gilmanton Year Round Library.
During town budget review at a Jan. 7 Gilmanton Budget Committee meeting, Chairman Brian Forst reported a new bottom line in the committee's amendment of the town budget of $3,614,691. "The budget committee reduced the town budget by $23,895 from the original proposed number brought forward by the board of selectmen," the minutes reflected.
Forst noted that the proposed operating budget, not including the warrant articles that the Budget Committee brought forward, totaled $3,614,691, which represents an estimated tax impact of $4.83 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, the minutes reported.