Selectboard's 2015 budget proposal calls for 3.6% increase in tax burden

GILFORD — Selectmen have recommended a gross town budget for 2015 of $12,314,072 — down from $13,338,829, or 7.68-percent from 23014.

Town Administrator Scott Dunn said the biggest reason for the decrease is because in 2014 the town approved $2,052,636 in special warrant articles — $1.213 million of which was for the addition and upgrade for the Police Station at Town Hall.

Dunn said this year, selectmen have recommended $446,000 in warrant articles that includes items for the Police, Fire and Public Works Departments.

Without the warrant articles, the operating budget is up from $11,286,193 to $11,868,072, or 5.1 percent.

In his presentation to the Budget Committee, Dunn said the main drivers of the increase are a net increase in the road improvement budget of $198,000 and an additional $119,749 in state-mandated increases the town must make as an employer to the state retirement fund.

Selectmen factored in a 2.5 percent merit pay increase for those employees who qualify or a total of $311,989 for an increase of $22,311 over this year. The proposed 2015 budget also included full funding for an 18th police officer that was funded for 9 months of this year's budget.

The long-term debt budget is up $87,598 for 2015 in anticipation of the first bond payment for the police station project.

He said health insurance increases are budgeted at a 3 percent increase.

Dunn said the net budget amount to be raised by local property taxes recommended by selectmen is up 3.57 percent, to $7,739,073.

As of this writing, the selectmen plan on using a minimum of $805,257 or 3 percent of the town's undesignated reserve fund to offset the amount to be raised by taxes. Dunn said the balance in the fund is $4.5 million which doesn't include any money that will be added to the account at the end of this year.

Dunn said selectmen factored in a growth of 1.5 percent in total taxable property valuation. Although the exact 2014 valuation amount won't be available until early November, Dunn said the town expects it to increase about 2 percent.

The Budget Committee is in the process of reviewing individual department budget requests in subcommittees and is scheduled to review the entire budget on October 23 at 6:30 p.m.

BHS bomb scare called in on holiday

BELMONT — Local police and the state police bomb squad responded Monday to a bomb threat phoned into the high school.

Police said there was no school that day and the building was closed.

The property was searched and no explosive devices were found.

The incident was reported to the FBI, which continues to investigate.

Alton's Havenstein brings 're-open for business' message to Meredith

MEREDITH — Walt Havenstein of Alton, the Republican candidate for governor, brought his campaign to the Lakes Region with stops in Meredith and Laconia last evening.

In Meredith, more than three dozen people, a significant share of young voters, gathered in the spacious apartment of Chelsy Usher and Tricia Poehler tucked into what was once the premier movie theater in town.
Speaking briefly, Havenstein sketched his plan to return New Hampshire to the forefront of the New England economy. "It's really very simple," he began. He explained that businesses sought the opportunity to earn a return for their investment in capital and labor. In New Hampshire, he said, the primary tax on business — the Business Profits TAx — has risen to become the highest in the region at 8.5-percent. At the same time, the Business Enterprise Tax, which he said taxes labor, weighs heavily on small businesses. Furthermore, the tax on real estate transactions hinders the formation and expansion of fledgling enterprises.
If elected, Havenstein said would reduce the Business Profits Tax to 7.4-percent in his initial budget and tackle the Business Enterprise Tax and Real Estate Transfer Tax soon afterwards. He also called for addressing the high costs of the Unemployment Trust Fund and workers compensation insurance.
Along with lowering taxes, Havenstein spoke of lightening the regulatory burdens on business, which he described as especially onerous for start-up and small enterprises.
Havenstein said that these measures would send a "signal" to businesses in other states that "New Hampshire is open for business." He intends to court firms in other New England states and Canada, New Hampshire's largest trading partner, to invest and relocate in the state.
In response to a question from Jack Carty, Havenstein said that businesses must nurture a skilled workforce. He recalled that when as chief executive officer of BAE Systems of Nashua he faced a shortage of engineers, he invested $1 million in the University of New Hampshire to build a laboratory and develop a curriculum to provide them.
Likewise, Havenstein recalled partnering with Dean Kamen, founder of FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), which sponsors robotic competitions, to foster interest in engineering in the schools. As governor, he said he would make robotics a varsity sport. He said that firms can also pursue mentoring and internship programs with schools, at no cost to taxpayers, and recalled that BAE Systems ultimately hired three-quarters of its interns.
Havenstein has said if he is elected he will create 25,000 new jobs by August 15, 2017. "I can do it," he assured his listeners.


CAPTION: Republican gubernatorial candidate Walt Havenstein of Alton swaps notes with Representative Harold "Skip" Kelly of Hill at house party in Meredith. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Michael Kitch)

Special LPD project to focus on reducing accidents involving autos, pedestrians & cyclists

LACONIA — A special police task force is working on lowering the number of accidents that occur between automobiles and pedestrians and bicyclists.

Led by Sgt. Dennis Ashley, a certified police bicycle instructor, the Problem Oriented Project is focusing on educating the bicycling and motoring public about the rules of the road and some common sense actions.

An outline of the project was presented at Thursday's meeting of the Police Commission.

This year, there have been 11 accidents involving pedestrians and automobiles. One of those was a fatal accident on South Main Street that is still under investigation.

In addition, there have been four accidents involving bicyclist and automobiles. One of those, said Ashley, resulted in serious injuries to the bicyclist.

Ashley said that a bicyclist has to obey the same rules as motor vehicle traffic and shall keep to the right unless it is not safe or is making a left turn.

Bicylists must wear reflective articles at night and the bicycle must be equipped with lights and reflectors.

He said bicycles fare best when they are operated like an automobile.

As to pedestrians and automobiles, Ashley said pedestrians should walk on the side of the road facing oncoming traffic.

It is state law that motorists must stop for pedestrians in crosswalks and if a motorist is at making a right turn at a stop light with a pedestrian crossing, the motorists must not make the turn if the walk light is on — whether or not there are any pedestrians.

Over the course of the summer, statistics indicate police issued two summon for right-on-red violations, 14 written warnings, and numerous verbal warnings.

Alternatively, pedestrians crossing where there is no crosswalk must yield to automobiles.

In other Police Commission action, members unanimously approved the promotion of Det. Christopher Noyes to sergeant.