Newfound Budget Committee supports middle school football program

by Thomas P. Caldwell

BRISTOL — The Newfound Area School District Budget Committee finalized its recommendations for the 2015-2016 school year following a public hearing on Jan. 9, lending its endorsement to a petitioned warrant article that would bring the middle school football program under the umbrella of Newfound athletics.
The petitioned article calls for the district to provide $15,000 per year to support the feeder program known as the Junior Bears. Until now, the Friends of Newfound Football has funded and operated the program at Newfound Memorial Middle School.
The Friends organization also supports the high school program which, like the Junior Bears, began as an independent athletic program but since has become taxpayer-financed, although the Friends maintain the field.
During the budget committee deliberations, Friends President Lynn Comeau of Hebron clarified that the cost of operating the program is about $8,000 per year but that the $15,000 figure would also provide money for uniforms and helmets that need replacing. She expects actual costs next year to be less than $15,000, providing a surplus that the program could carry forward to reduce future years' spending.
Superintendent Stacy Buckley said that, although the article calls for ongoing payments, it would require a new appropriation each year.
During the sparsely attended public hearing, several supporters spoke of the value of the program to students who might not excel in academics or other sports. Football Coach Andrew Szendre noted that the Division III coaches had chosen Newfound as having the best overall sportsmanship from players, coaches, spectators, and the home climate. The team also has helped with regional events such as the New Hampshire Marathon and raised money for the local food pantry.
Other speakers questioned whether adding another sports program would be prudent when there are academic needs that are not being met. Money for textbooks was cut to meet the district's tax cap and the guidance department has been pared back.
Budget committee member Christen Dolloff of Bristol cited those concerns later, saying she had a hard time supporting the article when she is hearing guidance counselors saying the students need more assistance.
Others, however, said the football program answers some of the problems guidance faces in meeting students' needs. Jeff Bird of Bridgewater gave an impassioned plea for the committee to support the article, saying the program builds a sense of community. He noted that bringing the program into the school district brings another level of safety to the participants, as well, as the district can conduct concussion tests, while the Friends cannot.
Harold "Skip" Reilly of Alexandria made the motion to support the article, saying the program builds confidence and character. When it came to a vote, only John Jenness II of New Hampton voted against supporting the article.
The budget hearing attracted a small audience of 15, most of whom were connected with the schools. Chair Simon Barnett of Danbury reviewed the warrant articles, highlighting the budget impacts of the two-year teacher's contract, and he dispensed with a close review of the proposed budget, instead focusing on changes the Newfound Area School Board had made to the administration's original proposal and the items the budget committee adjusted.
The budget committee had added back $93,000 for replacement of the roof and drainage at the middle school; $10,960 for refurbishment of gymnasium floors; $16,000 for a projection system in the high school auditorium; and $10,000 for the painting of buildings.
The total proposed budget is $21,948,204, an increase of $2,767 from the current-year budget.

Slow job growth projected for the Lakes Region

CONCORD — Employment in the Lakes Region will increase 6.3 percent during the decade between 2012 and 2022, the third slowest pace among the nine planning regions in the state, according to projections by the New Hampshire Department of Employment Security.

The Lakes Region consists of two cities — Laconia and Franklin — and 28 towns in Belknap, Grafton, Carroll and Merrimack counties. All 11 municipalities in Belknap County are included in the region. The agency chose to develop the projections for planning regions because they represent areas of greater economic coherence than counties.

The agency projects total employment in the Lakes Region to grow from an estimated 44,222 to 46,987 during the 10-year period, an increase of 2,765 jobs. Employment in the goods-producing sector — manufacturing, construction, agriculture and mining — which together provided 6,865 jobs in 2012, is projected to shed 45 jobs, a decrease of 0.7 percent. Employment in manufacturing is projected to slip 3.9 percent, or by 177 jobs, which represents "a drag on growth". The construction sector is expected to add 109 jobs.

Employment in the service sector is projected to expand by 2,818 jobs, an increase of 8.1 percent from an estimated 34,639 jobs in 2012 to a projected 37,457 jobs in 2022. Health care and social work, which provided 5,762 jobs in 2012, are expected to account for 40 percent of the projected growth by adding 1,138 jobs, an increase of 20 percent. Most of the remainder of the projected growth in employment is represented by additional jobs in hospitality, retail trade and educational services.

Government, which employed 3,501 people in 2012, is projected to add 178 jobs, 132 of them in municipal and county government.

The three regions projected to post the greatest increases in employment are the Rockingham region, including the Seacoast, the Southern Region, centered on Manchester, and the Upper Valley, anchored by Hanover and Lebanon, where employment is expected to expand by 14.7 percent, 14.1 percent and 10.2 percent respectively. The lowest rates of growth are projected in the North County and Southwest, where employment is expected to expand by 4.8 percent.

Applicants sought for open County Commission post

LACONIA — The Belknap County Convention has set a deadline of noon on Friday, January 23 for candidates to express interest in filling a two-year vacancy on the Belknap County Commission.
The District 3 Commission seat vacancy was created by the resignation of Commissioner Steve Nedeau (R-Meredith), who had two years left in his term, which was effective as of January 1.
Candidates for the vacant seat must be from the towns of Alton, Center Harbor, Gilford or Meredith and will be asked to file a cover letter and resume with the Belknap County Administrator's office.
Convention chairman Frank Tilton (R-Laconia) says that the entire convention will be involved in the interview process for the applicants for the position and that the convention hopes to have a new commissioner seated by the end of the month.