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Newfound Budget Committee starts with lesson on school district accounting

by Thomas P. Caldwell

BRISTOL — Business Administrator Mike Limanni on Sept. 18 walked members of the Newfound Area School District Budget Committee through the accounting structure in preparation for the upcoming budget season, which formally gets underway at the committee's next meeting on Oct. 23.
At the end of August, the budget committee had elected Simon Barnett of Danbury to serve as chair for the coming year, and Harold "Skip" Reilly of Alexandria as vice-chair. The committee also set meeting dates for its budget deliberations, rotating the meetings among the member towns.
At the beginning of Thursday's meeting, which took place in the central office, the budget committee named John Jenness of New Hampton to serve as the committee's liaison on the new facilities committee which is being formed to develop a long-range plan for the district's schools.
The training session on Thursday served to make the budget committee members comfortable with the spreadsheets and to demonstrate how they could seek the level of detail they wanted. Limanni explained the accounting codes and what they meant, offering three versions of the current year's special education budget to demonstrate how, by "collapsing" various categories, they could look at specific numbers that might interest them.
"I can provide the budget in whatever format you want so the expenditures make sense," Limanni said, noting that he uses the various views to look for discrepancies that might indicate fraud, as well as to identify areas where the district might save money or operate more efficiently. "I'm a fiscal conservative," he said, "and if we can save pennies that add up to dollars, that money can be used more effectively by the taxpayers than by sitting in a school surplus."
At the same time, he said, there has to be money available for emergencies as well as the fluctuations that take place all the time in student enrollment, special education needs, and other areas that have not been identified when the budget is crafted.
Limanni also noted areas where he is adjusting the chart of accounts to better track expenses, or to place items in the proper category. He used the example of the summer program which has been listed under special education but more properly fits under co-curricular costs. He said he is making changes that will provide better tracking and, so people can follow year-to-year changes, he will be reassigning items to the new categories retroactively to the budgets for the past eight years. By July 1, he said, everything will be reflected under the revised categories so it will be easier going forward.
He noted that he consulted with the school district's accounting firm to make sure it approved of his proposed changes, and he agreed to provide an outline of those changes to the budget committee so they would be able to follow the numbers.
In discussing how the school district's budget cap is affecting the budget, Limanni said, "Right now, you can live within the cap quite well, with a diminishing student body. But that's why long-term planning is so important."
School Board member Jeff Levesque of Groton noted that the teacher contract negotiations will be a factor. "If we pay our teachers what Plymouth does, it would cost $2 million more," he said. "We won't be able to do that, but there will be an increase. If we get an agreement, I'd like to have the budget committee behind it. We're trying very hard to come up with a fair agreement with them that will be something we can also have public support for."
Reilly said he felt it was important to have the meetings in the towns where people can come and ask questions and see how the budget is formed. He noted that a roundtable with school administrators had proven helpful in the past, too, because they were able to voice their priorities.
Limanni said, "Uncomfortable conversations are good. Conflict is good. If I argue with you, don't look at it as a problem, because these conversations help to come up to better decisions. You've got to look at the whole picture, and I'm here to balance this out or give an alternate view. Then you make the decisions."
The next meeting will be Thursday, Oct. 23, at 7 p.m. at the Danbury Elementary School.
Reilly asked that one of the agenda items next month be a discussion of what an "employee" is in light of Limanni's stand that elected school board and budget committee members who receive a stipend for their service from the school district are employees who have to provide Social Security numbers and other personal information. Reilly maintains that, if that were so, all 424 members of the New Hampshire legislature would be employees of the state.

Last Updated on Saturday, 20 September 2014 12:51

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Segment of United Way's annual Day of Caring devoted to cleaning up Black Brook

LACONIA — Volunteers for the United Way annual "Day of Caring" pitched in yesterday to remove trash from along the banks of Black Brook and milfoil from the silt-filled cove located where the brook passes under Union Avenue before it empties into Spinnaker Cove on Paugus Bay.
The project, one of many of the day, was undertaken by volunteers from 3M in Tilton, Franklin Savings Bank, the Taylor Home in Laconia, Lakes Region General Hospital and the Aqualogic firm of Gilford, which specializes in the vacuum harvesting of Eurasian watermilfoil .
John Jude, president of Aqualogic and a member of the Gilford Conversation Commission, said that the project was undertaken in cooperation with the City of Laconia's Conservation Commission and was coordinated by Scott McPhie of the city's Planning Department who is the department's liaison with the commission.
''We've picked up trash along Black Brook and worked with the team of milfoil harvesters who pulled the plants out along with their roots. Hand removal is the only option here because we can't use chemicals because Black Brook empties into Paugus Bay just a short distance away from the intake for the Laconia Water Works,'' said McPhie.
Black Brook starts near Lily Pond in Gilford and flows past the Hannaford-Lowe's parking lot on its way to Paugus Bay. Periodic dredging is required of the silt which accumulates at the outlet.
Laconia has contracted with DuBois & King engineers to do a geomorphic study of the brook to develop and understanding of of the physical condition or the existing stream corridor while Gilford has set aside $4,000 to assist with the project. Laconia has already raised $17,000 to fund the study.
Both conservation commissions will continue to raise money for the second and third phases of the study — the total of which will be $35,000. After Phase I is the Hydrological and Hydraulic Culvert Analysis and the Watershed Plan.
The goals of the study and eventual work that will likely be done through a federal grant, is to reduce to need for ongoing dredging at Spinnaker Cove; reduce the milfoil by eliminating some of the sediments that accumulate in the stagnant area next to Union Avenue; decrease the turbidity and reduce the water temperature; control the debris; improve flows from the brook and replace some of the culverts to better control vegetative buffers; and to protect Paugus Bay.

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Dominic Jude of Aqualogic of Gilford positions a suction hose from a milfoil harvester in Black Brook
in Laconia yesterday as part of a United Way Day of Caring project. With him are John Jude, owner of Aqualogic, and Wayne Kreiensidsk and Mike Foote, on board the harvester. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)

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Chris Perez, a United Way Day of Caring volunteer, helps remove milfoil from Black Brook in Laconia yesterday. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)

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Michael Mitchell and Joe Laplante of 3M corporation in Tilton, United Way Day of Caring volunteers, dump a bucket of milfoil harvested from Black Brook in Laconia into a container. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)

Last Updated on Saturday, 20 September 2014 12:41

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Murderer seeks sentence reduction; repeatedly shot wife along Court Street in 1984

LACONIA — A former Laconia man who shot and killed his wife as she walked down Court Street in September 1984 has asked a Belknap County Superior Court Judge to suspend two years of his 35-year sentence potentially allowing him to be released in 2018.

According to paperwork obtained from the court, Richard Pliskaner, Jr. pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in 1985 after he was indicted for first-degree murder. He was sentenced to a 35 year to life in prison.

This is the seventh time Pliskaner has asked the court for a sentence reduction. His previous requests came in 1988, 1992, 1998, 2001, 2006, and in 2010.

In the motion he wrote himself, Pliskaner said that he had met the three goals of incarceration: punishment, deterrence, and rehabilitation.

After his guilty plea, "for the ensuring 30 years the defendant had continued working hard through attending 57 self help programs..."

Pliskaner said that if his request was granted he would have three years in prison to work on what he would do if released in 2018.

Senior Asst. Attorney General Jeff Strelzin objects to Pliskaner's request for a reductions.

He said the facts of the crime are still very disturbing in that in August of 1984 Pliskaner had been involuntarily committed to the N.H. State (mental health) Hospital for eight days. Upon his release, Pliskaner's wife Debra left him against Pliskaner's wishes.

On September 1, Laconia Police confronted Pliskaner while he was across the street from his wife's apartment. He was carrying a loaded revolver and the police confiscated it and released him.

On September 13, Pliskaner purchased a pistol, four boxes of ammunition and a holster. He lied about his name, his address and his reason for buying the gun.

On September 14, Pliskaner was driving through Laconia when he saw his wife walking her dog along Court Street. He got out of her car, shot her, spun her around and shot her a second time.

He ran away towards his car, but stopped, looked back and returned to his wife who was lying on the ground. Pliskaner fired a third shot into her head, killing her.

Pliskaner walked away and then shot himself in the head, living but loosing the sight in one eye.

Strelzin noted that Pliskaner has had a number of disciplinary violations during his time in prison, including sending a threatening letter to a former girlfriend and harassing her with multiple phone calls in 1996. An investigation determined he placed 55 calls to her after he had been specifically ordered not to.

He was also reprimanded for sending four threatening letters to his second wife and more recently, Stelzin said Pliskaner was transferred to the Berlin prison from Concord because a female mental health staff member in Concord felt he was "stalking" her.

Strelzin said that Pliskaner claims to be a mature 58-year old man, but "it is clear the defendant has not matured and does not understand what his did and how to comport his behavior to the law."

"His behavior demonstrates a dangerous and disturbing pattern of behavior towards women, a pattern of behavior that should no be rewarded with a sentence reduction," continued Strelzin.

Strelzin also cited Pliskaner's behavior to the court itself when in 2006 he accused the court of not doing enough research into his case and writing to the judge that incarceration is "simply a cash-making business, warehousing them and forget them, your job."

In asking Judge James O'Neill to deny Pliskaner's request, he wrote that the "defendant showed no mercy to his wife in 1984 when he gunned her down. He showed no mercy to her daughter in 2006 when he wrote her a letter calling her a liar. And now in 2014, he continues to show no mercy to his victims with his 7th attempt to leave prison early."

The court will hear Pliskaner's motion Monday at 1:30 p.m. Newspaper accounts of his 2010 hearing indicate that Debra Pliskaner's family was at the hearing and objected to his early release.

Last Updated on Saturday, 20 September 2014 12:26

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Newfound board posts 'recommended reading' prior to Monday's meeting on future of middle school

by Thomas P. Caldwell

BRISTOL — The Newfound Area School Board has posted "recommended reading" on the school website in preparation for Monday night's planning and dialogue meeting that will focus on the possible closing of Newfound Memorial Middle School.
The school board is considering the advantages and disadvantages of closing the school, reacting to financial pressures the district is facing with declining enrollments and a loss of state aid, as well as complaints about the quality of education at the middle school. Many residents have been advocating a return to a junior-senior high school model and retaining the elementary grades at the outlying schools.
Danbury recently considered withdrawing from the seven-town school district and the towns of Bridgewater and Hebron currently are looking at withdrawal, in part because of the concerns about the middle school.
At the Sept. 8 school board meeting, a number of teachers and residents voiced support for the current educational structure and defended the middle school, questioning why the board would even consider closing it. Others faulted the school board for failing to present any information to justify the discussion and the board said it would put together a presentation for the Sept. 22 meeting.
Chair Ruby Hill of Danbury said a series of documents on the website, under the heading "Recommended Reading for the K-6 & NMMS Closure Discussion", provides information on cost per pupil, student-teacher ratios, teacher retention, teachers' salaries, and 10 years of enrollment history.
Also among the issues the school board is looking at are the amount of time students spend on buses and the advantages of keeping the current configuration that has kindergarten through Grade 5 in the individual towns, grades 6-8 in the middle school, and grades 9-12 at the high school.
Without a change, there is a possibility that Bridgewater and Hebron would leave the district to operate their own K-8 school in the building the two towns built and currently lease to the school district for $1 per year. It would tuition its high school students to either Plymouth, which offers a more attractive per pupil cost, or to Newfound Regional High School.
Groton might decide to follow their lead, rather than send its elementary students all the way to Bristol, Danbury, or New Hampton. Most of Groton's elementary students now attend the Bridgewater-Hebron Village School.
Another factor in the discussion is the town of Hill's interest in ending its enrollment agreement with Franklin and sending students to either Newfound or Merrimack Valley. If they were to come to Newfound, it would partially compensate for the loss in the local student population and bring an infusion of tuition revenue to the district.
Monday's meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the high school.

Last Updated on Saturday, 20 September 2014 12:22

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