Burchell budget plan would cut eight, including county administrator (583)

LACONIA — Belknap County Commission Chairman Richard Burchell, maintaining that the alternate budget developed by his fellow commissioners during an all-day work session 10 days ago is far too optimistic in its assessment of projected revenues, has offered an alternate plan which would radically reshape county government.
The plan, which Burchell says is based on realistic revenue projections, would cut eight full-time positions from the county, including that of the County Administrator, two of the three Finance Department positions, two positions in the County Attorney's office, and one each from the Corrections Department, Maintenance Department and Registry of Deeds.
It calls for a full-time position of a business manager for $110,000, including benefits, and adding two part-time positions in the County Attorney's office and one at the Registry of Deeds.
Burchell estimated a savings of $329,192 from those personnel changes.
Other recommended changes include dropping $34,200 in Genesis funding and going to a fee for service arrangement with the mental health provider, reducing contingency from $150,000 to $50,000 and adding $150,000 to pay for a jail schematic, which would add $15,800 to expenses.
He also suggested reducing anticipated revenue from the Pro Share program at the Belknap County Nursing Home by $100,000. He said that his proposed budget adjustments would result in an increase of $454,051, some 3.3 percent, in the amount to be raised by taxes.
Burchell did not attend the all-day work session on Feb. 6 at which fellow commissioners Dave DeVoy and Hunter Taylor increased revenue projections by $750,000, with $650,000 of that coming in the nursing home budget, which commissioners discussed at length that day with Nursing Home Administrator Mathew Logue who said state funding through the Department of Health and Human Services is uncertain and pretty much a guessing game.
The increased revenue projections, minus the $335,000 in added expenses, allowed the two commissioners to come up with a $400,000 adjustment in the proposed budget.
The work session was held in order to come up with cuts in the amount to be raised by taxes for the proposed county budget by by $1.1 million as requested by County Convention Chairman Frank Tilton of Laconia, who said he wanted to limit the increase in revenue to be raised by 2 percent. The convention had agreed to cuts amounting to around $740,000 in payroll and health insurance cuts from the original budget proposed by former Belknap County commissioners.
Burchell disagreed with fellow commissioner DeVoy at last night's meeting of the county convention during a discussion of placing $440,000 in the Department of Corrections budget for jail planning purposes.
DeVoy and Taylor had originally tried to increase the amount in the county's contingency fund from $150,000 to $660,000 but found out last week that a contingency fund can only be one percent of the total budget. They recommended increasing the contingency line to $200,000 and and putting $440,000 into the outside service/activity line of the Corrections Department budget.
''You don't have the money'' Burchell told DeVoy after the change was recommended, maintaining that it was ''based on revenue projections which I don't believe are accurate.''
The convention did approve the transfer in its working budget by a 9-4 vote.
Rep. Guy Comtois of Barnstead attempted to initiate a discussion of Burchell's proposal at last night's convention meeting but Chairman Frank Tilton said that he was aware of it and that it could come up for discussion at the next meeting of the convention.
Last night's convention meeting ended shortly after 6:30 in order to allow commissioners and Laconia representatives to attend the Laconia City Council meeting at which copies of Burchell's budget proposal were provided to the public and the press.

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Public hearings held in Belmont, Gilmanton about doing away with SB2

BELMONT – A petitioned warrant article seeking to revoke SB2, also known as the Official Ballot Act, brought about six people to a public hearing last night.

The warrant article, signed by at least two members of the town's budget committee, needs a two-thirds vote to pass and would change the current voting system back to traditional town meeting.

Budget Committee member Tracey LeClair was one of the first signers of the petition. She said she supports returning to the traditional town meeting format because since SB2 has gone into effect, she has spoken with a number of people who don't necessarily know what a warrant article means but if it contains a dollar amount, they will vote "no."

LeClair gave as examples warrant articles such as money being expended by a sewer or water district. She said there's no taxes being raised, the money being spent is revenue through users fees, yet the article could fail simply because a majority sees a dollar amount and votes "no."

Calling supporters of SB2 the "just say nos" she said the law (N.H. RSA 40:13) that was enacted in 1995 was likely started by the "just say nos."

Speaking against the warrant article and for continuing with SB2 was Robert Racette – a familiar face at Town Meetings before the change in 2009 and at SB2 sessions.

"SB2 gives everybody a chance to vote," he contended, saying that annual town meetings prevent elderly, handicapped, and working people from casting their votes.

He said annual town meetings are often swayed to the positive by "special interest groups" who only have their own interests at heart.

The town of Gilmanton also has a warrant article for revoking their SB2 format, although it was only enacted three years ago. Gilmanton's SB2 hearing, held last week, was also very sparsely attended with three residents attending and all of them supporting a return to traditional town meeting.

When challenged by the Gilmanton Board of Selectmen about why so few people came to the public hearing, traditional town meeting supporter Vinnie Baiocchetti said the hearing was perfunctory – that it was a "yes or no" vote and most of the people in town had likely already made up their minds.

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Licensing Board Recommends Stiffening Licensure of Pawnbrokers/Dealers

LACONIA — The City Council last night referred a recommendation of the Licensing Board to stiffen the city ordinance regulating the operation of pawnshops and secondhand dealers to the Government Operations and Ordinances Committee for review.

Both pawnshops and secondhand dealers are regulated by the state. The statute bearing on pawnbrokers (RSA 398) applies only to municipalities with populations of 40,000 or more, but may be adopted by cities and towns. Although the city enacted an ordinance "to ensure compliance of pawnshops to deal in legally obtained items" in 1975, the state law authorizing the city to license pawnbrokers was not adopted until 2010. The state law authorizes municipalities licensing pawnbrokers to also regulate them. Consequently, at the same time, the ordinance was amended to require pawnbrokers to provide the police a written record of property within 24 hours of receiving it and to hold property for 14 days before selling it. However, the ordinance applied only to pawnbrokers, and in December 2013 the police recommended it be extended to secondhand dealers.

The proposal prepared by the Licensing Board would apply to both pawnbrokers and secondhand dealers and would require both to be licensed by the city. A pawnbroker is defined as any person or corporation that lends money at interest and takes property as security, which may be sold if not redeemed. A secondhand dealer is any person or corporation that buys, sells or exchanges secondhand goods, but the definition would apply only to those who purchase secondhand articles "directly" from the general public.

Applications would be submitted to the city and investigated by the police. who would report to Licensing Board. No license would be issued to any firm, whose owners or employees had been convicted of theft, burglary, fraud or receiving stolen property in the prior 10 years. Licenses would be issued for a specific location and could not be transferred to another person or corporation. Licenses would carry an initial fee of $100 and an annual renewal fee of $25.

Pawnbrokers and secondhand dealers would be required to record the date and time of purchases, amount paid or loaned, as well as the interest rate, along with the name and address of the seller or borrower, type of article, brand name, model number, and serial number, color, any identifying marks; and if jewelry, the metal as well as kind, number and, if known, carat of any stones. The transaction record would include a color image of the property. The ordinance would require transaction records be kept for seven years

Sellers and borrowers would be required to produce photographic identification, including their full name, date of birth and street address, which the pawnbroker or secondhand dealer would attach tot he transaction record. Transactions with anyone younger than 18 would be prohibited unless they were accompanied by a parent or guardian, who would be required to sign the transaction record.

Pawnbrokers would required to hold property taken in pawn for four months after acquiring it, unless the item was perishable, in which case it could be disposed of within a month with permission of the police. Pawnbrokers or secondhand dealers purchasing property for money would be required to hold it for 14 days.

Pawnbrokers and secondhand dealers would be required to file transaction records electronically on a specified form with the police within 24 hours of the close of the business day when the transaction occurred.

Violations of the ordinance would carry a fine of $100 per day or suspension or revocation of license.

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