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If Winnisquam union deal approved, teachers with more than 10 years experience will no longer get both 'step' & cost-of-living pay hikes each year

TILTON — Automatic pay scale step increases for teachers with more than 10 years of experience will be a thing of the past in the Winnisquam Regional School District if a new collective bargaining agreement is approved at the annual school district meeting next March.
''There was a perception that teachers are getting double raises because they received both the step increases as well as cost of living increases and we wanted to deal with that,'' said Winnisquam Regional School Board Chair Michael Gagne.
Advancing steps that equate to years of experience are built into the union salary schedules of almost all school districts and teachers typically move up the ladder, one year at a time, until there are no more steps available to them. A teacher moving from one step to the next will typically see an increase in pay on the order of 2 or 3 percent, plus the value of each step will often be adjusted upward by the terms of an agreement, adding another 2 or 3 percent to base pay.

The Winnisquam School District currently has 41 steps but that will be reduced to from to 11 in the first year of the agreement and 10 the following year.
Gagne said that the agreement which was recently reached between the Winnisquam Regional School District and the Winnisquam Regional Teachers' Association also increases the starting salary for teachers by $5,000 over a three-year period.
He said that in the first year of the three-year agreement, the base pay for new teachers will increase to $34,000 and that it will increase in subsequent years to $35,205 and $36,191. Currently starting pay for a new teacher is $31,152.
'We wanted to attract more teaching candidates and retain staff by making the district's salaries competitive with those of nearby school districts,'' said Gagne.
In the first year of the new contract teachers will be advanced two steps because they are working without a contract this year. The step increases in the first year will be 3 percent of base salary for each step through step 15 and 1.94 percent of the base salary for steps 15-41.
The total "new" cost of the package agreed to will be $559,674 for the 2014-2015 school year.
a 7.25 percent increase in the district's teacher salary account.
In the second year of the contract steps 1-11 will see a three percent increase in value and those still in that experience range will also move up one step. Those with no more steps to ascend to will receive a three percent cost of living increase. Total salary increase will be $347,569 for 2015-2016, a 4.2 percent increase in the salary account.
In the final year of the contract steps 1-10 will receive a 3 percent increase in value and teachers who are no longer able to step up will receive 2.5 percent cost of living increases. Total increase will be $270,592, a 3.13 percent increase in the salary account.
A teacher on step 5 currently making $36,420 will see a salary increase to $40,129 next year, $42,598 in 2015-16 and $44,877 in 2016-17.
By contrast a teacher on step 15 currently making $47,322 will see an increase to $49,599 next year, $51,357 in 2015-16 and $52,641 the following year.
The teacher currently on step 5 will see an increase of $8,467 over the life contract while the teacher on step 15 will only see an increase of $5,319, more than $3,000 less than the teacher with 10 years less experience.
A major focus of the new contract according to Gagne and Brenda Lawrence, president of the Winnisquam Regional Teachers Association, was the "promotion of professional growth among our existing staff". The contract increases the number of teaching days from 188 to 189 in the first year and then adds another day in the second year. There is also an increase in monies made available for professional development, from $90,000 to $110,000 per year.

A new health care benefit was also added to the contract for retiring teachers. If the agreement is approved, they will be eligible to receive a $6,000 health care allowance annually for a period of five years, or until they become eligible for Medicare, whichever comes first.

"This new benefit encourages our existing staff members to remain in the district long term," said Gagne and Lawrence. "The benefit also makes retirement a reality for some of our existing staff members, with potential savings to the district, long term."

Last Updated on Tuesday, 17 December 2013 02:12

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N.H. Supreme Court sides with town in its dispute with Meredith Zoning Board

MEREDITH — The New Hampshire Supreme Court has upheld the ruling of the Belknap County Superior Court setting aside the decision of the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) to grant a variance to allow a variety of commercial uses on the portion of the lot at 22 Foundry Avenue.

The litigation, which began in 2010 pitted the Board of Selectmen against the ZBA. The selectmen were troubled by so-called "zoning creep," by which uses permitted in one district are extended to another by annexing abutting property as well as by the prospect of a commercial operation in the Waukewan Watershed Overlay District.

The property at 22 Foundry Avenue, owned by Foundry Avenue Realty Trust, originally consisted of two lots that were merged in 2009. The first, a one-acre parcel fronting on Foundry Avenue in the business and industry district. The second, abutting the first to the north, is a four-acre wooded lot which lies entirely in the residential district. The only access to the residential portion of the property is through the business and industry district.
The owner sought the variance to construct a building on the land in the residential district to serve as a "warehousing, light manufacturing, building trades and/or equipment and truck repairs." The board, with one dissenting vote, granted the variance, finding that because of its proximity to commercial enterprises and lack of appropriate access, the land is not suited to residential development, despite its zoning.
The Selectboard asked the ZBA to reconsider and when it reaffirmed its decision appealed to Superior Court. Justice James D. O'Neill, III ruled that without knowing the precise use for the property, the ZBA could not determine whether the five criteria for the variance were met. He set aside the variance and remanded the case to the ZBA.
Foundry Avenue Realty Trust amended its request, limiting the proposed use to "building trade or repair shop." The ZBA again granted the variance. The selectmen again appealed and O'Neill reversed the ZBA's decision, again ruling that the proposed use was not sufficiently precise. "Given the endless possibilities of types of trade and items that can be repaired," he wrote, "it is arguably impossible for the ZBA to reasonably grant the variance absent more specificity."

Foundry Avenue Realty Trust and the ZBA then appealed to the Supreme Court.
At the Supreme Court Foundry Avenue Realty Trust, represented by attorney Ed Philpot of Laconia, argued that O'Neill erred by requiring that the proposed use be more specifically defined than the zoning ordinance requires. The justices noted that the five criteria that the ZBA must find are met to grant a variance are established by statute, not the local zoning ordinance. "Accordingly," they held, "the burden on the applicant to address the particular characteristics of the specific proposed use arises independent of, and is not a function of, the uses that are specifically enumerated in the town ordinance."
The justices explained that the responsibility of the ZBA to determine that the five criteria are satisfied cannot be delegated to the planning board. They cited a case in which the court ruled that the Alton ZBA erred by granting a special exception despite severe traffic issues, expecting the planning board as well as state and local officials to resolve the problem.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 17 December 2013 02:07

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Gilmanton man admits to reckless conduct on night he was firing cap & ball revolver

GILMANTON — A local man who police said pointed a loaded gun at a police officer has pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of reckless conduct in the 4th Circuit Count, Laconia Division Thursday.

Daniel Walker, 57, of Chestnut Avenue was facing two felony charges that he reckless placed a Gilmanton Police officer in immediate danger on November 24 and that he purposely placed the same officer in imminent danger.

Walker told The Daily Sun that he had been lighting off caps from a gun that he made from a hobby kit. He said it probably "sounded like a cannon."

He described it as an 1858 cap-and-ball Civil War era revolver.

Police were called to Walker's home on a Sunday at 1:28 a.m. after a neighbor called to report gunshots. While approaching Walker, a responding officer said in his sworn affidavit that he saw him take an aggressive stance and and bring his hands to his face like he was pointing a gun.

Walker, who said he is a former corrections officer, said he had no idea who was coming to his house because it was dark and the police SUV cruiser was very low profile.

Walker said Friday that he was not pointing a gun but was putting his hands up to his eyes to see who was approaching his house at 2 a.m. He said that the gun was never pointed at the officer and he thought that "he could brandish it" at whoever was coming up to his deck if he needed to.

On Friday, he said when he realized the approaching person was a police officer he put the gun in the house and "assumed the position."

"I came running out of my house with my hands up," he said.

When asked if the officer announced he was a police officer, Walker said he didn't hear it. He said the wind was loud.

After Walker was arrested he said he warned police that the gun was real and had one live round in it. Police agreed he was cooperative and apologetic.

When Walker was asked why he reached out to the media, he replied that he wants "people to know he's not the wild cowboy they think he is."


Last Updated on Tuesday, 17 December 2013 01:57

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Historic Demolition Review Ordinance proposed in Belmont

BELMONT — A group of citizens has petitioned a warrant article on to the March 2014 SB-2 ballot that would create and adopt a Historic Demolition Review Ordinance.

The ordinance, if passed, would create a review committee that would be comprised of at least three members of the Heritage Commission.

Any proposed demolition of a building that is older than 50 and is visible from an adjacent public land or is listed or is eligible to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places or the New Hampshire State Register of Historic Places would have to be reviewed by this committee but the committee would not have to legal power to stop it.

Twenty-six people signed the petition and the Office of the Town Clerk Tax Collector has verified them. The petition was filed with the town on Dec. 11.

Linda Frawley of the Heritage Commission said the idea of an ordinance has been in the minds of members of the commission for at least a year but it was only in autumn of this year when the commission approached the Planning Department and asked them to craft an ordinance that could go on the annual town meeting warrant.

She said the Heritage Commission hasn't weighed in on this specific petitioned warrant article but said three of the seven members signed the petition — including herself. The other two are Alice Jewell and Priscilla Annis.

She said the initial draft of the ordinance was generated by the Planning Department after a lengthy discussion with commission member Wallace Rhodes and it included buildings throughout the entire town.

"That was much greater than we wanted," Frawley said yesterday.

Frawley said she rewrote the proposed ordinance to restrict it to the Factory Village Historical District.

In her opinion, the ordinance would apply to all buildings, including those owned by the local government.

Town Planner Candace Daigle said the Factory Village Historical District exists but at this time it is not a regulatory district — meaning there are no specific planning or zoning ordinance that apply to it and it alone. She said it was designated as an official district two years ago as a TIF (Tax Increment Financing) District.

Daigle also said that town-owned property is not subjected to planning and zoning ordinances because Belmont voters have not officially voted to include all municipal property as subject to planning and zoning regulation.

"We do try to adhere, though, " Daigle said.

When Frawley was asked how this ordinance would specifically address the Gale School, she said she didn't know but allowed the school is in the Factory Village Historic District, which she said was designated in 2002 or 2003.

Frawley said that as of yesterday, the submitted version of the proposed ordinance has not been vetted by the town attorney.

Daigle said that while original Planning Department's draft was reviewed by counsel, the petitioned version was still undergoing a review.

Daigle said there would be only one public hearing on the petitioned article and the earliest it could be held is January 13, 2014.. She said that no changes can be made to a petitioned warrant article by any government agency or at the annual deliberative session.

She said the Planning Board will make a recommendation but only after the public hearing.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 17 December 2013 01:51

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