City manager's proposed budget funds roads, firefighters

LACONIA — Increased investment in city streets and maintaining four additional firefighter positions are the major features of the 2015-16 city budget that City Manger Scott Myers presented to the City Council last night.

Myers proposed city expenditures of $22,860,061 -- an increase of $8,446 over the current year. However, revenues from sources other than property taxes, including the use of fund balance, are projected to drop by $537,702, or 7.1 percent. A one-time credit from the Concord Regional Solid Waste/Resource Recovery Cooperative of $800,000 represents most of the decrease. But it is partially offset by increases in fees from licensing and permitting, especially motor vehicle registration.

Myers explained that the $800,000 credit received last year was not spent and recommended applying $600,000 of the amount to street repairs in 2015-16, increasing the total appropriation for road work to $1.75 million. He said that he will suggest the remaining $200,000 be carried forward to 2016-17, when again between $1.7 million and $1.8 million would be appropriated for street repairs.

Apart from street repairs, other capital outlays include $25,000 for repair and construction of sidewalks, $40,000 for repair and replacement of guardrails and fences, $100,000 for drainage improvements, $30,000 for bridge repair and maintenance, $28,000 install irrigation at Memorial Field, and $155,000 for portable radios for the Fire Department. Myers also recommends borrowing $300,000 to fund the restoration of Weirs Beach.

Myers said that his proposed budget includes $50,000 in general fund expenditure, which together with funding from LRGH and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grants from the federal government ,will enable the Fire Department to retain the four firefighters originally hired for two years with federal funding. The budget also includes 50 percent of the funding for an additional police officer and third motor mechanic, which are two positions that were partially funded in the 2014-15 budget.

The budget includes wage adjustments reflecting increases in steps and cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) with all four collective bargaining units representing city employees, three of which have ratified contracts. Negotiations with the State Employees Association (SEA), representing employees at the Department of Public Works, remain ongoing.

Myers said that the city has received a "not to exceed" rate increase of 3.4 percent for employee health insurance. He said that the city spent $3,085,212 for health insurance in 2011-12, but has budgeted $2,270,211 in 2015-16, a decrease of $814,946 over the past four years. Meanwhile, he anticipates the city's contribution to the New Hampshire Retirement System to rise by approximately $200,000 on July 1.

With the decline in revenue from sources other than property taxes, the amount to be raised by property taxes is projected to rise by $546,148, from $15,255,299 to $15, 801,447, a jump of 3.6 percent.  The increase is reflected in an increase the city portion of the tax rate of 16 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, from $8.73 to $8.89.

The School District budget is expected to increase by $1,712,800, from $30,894,058 to $32,606,858 -- or by 5.5 percent -- which represents a 35 cent increase in the school tax rate, from $9.67 to $10.02. The county tax rate is projected to drop a penny to $1.41 and the state education property tax rate by 14 cents to $2.44. Altogether, the municipal tax rate is estimated to rise by 36 cents from $22.40 to $22.76.



Serendipity: Middle schoolers find lost purse at city snow dump

LACONIA — In what can only be called an instance of serendipity, three Laconia Middle School students recently found a lost clutch purse atop a huge pile of snow at the city's snow dump off from South Street.
Defined as a "fortunate happenstance" or "pleasant surprise," the discovery of the lost purse was as much of an accidental event as was its loss over a month earlier.
The clutch, purse belonging to Michelle Plourde, an information technology staffer at Laconia Hgh School, had been lost during a snowstorm on February 2 which caused the cancellation of classes.

''I lost it somewhere between the Irving station and the high school parking lot,'' says Plourde, who had reported it to police and tried searching the parking lot for it only to find all of the snow had been plowed into a large pile, which was later hauled away to the city's snow dumping area near Memorial Park, near the winter sledding area where not long ago a missing earring had been located by diligent young searchers.
On Wednesday, March 11, Middle School nurse Kerri Reynolds, Project EXTRA Winter Survival Club leader and Regina Theberge, administrative assistant for Project EXTRA, were at the South Street Public Sledding Hill with Project EXTRA Winter Survival Club students from grades 6-8.

Sixth-graders Eclipse Warren, Trinity Furtado and Kaidyn Blake, said that they got tired of sledding and the long walk back up the hill after each run.

''It was like being in quicksand,'' said Warren, who along with her friends asked permission from Reynolds to explore the mountains of snow above the hill.

They found lots of items that had been moved there in the snow -- including a trash can, socks and even an automobile tire -- before spying the purse.

'It was soaked and covered with sand and when we opened it the money was all wet.'' said Furtado.

The girls brought the purse, which also contained credit cards and gift cards, to Reynolds, who was able to identify it as belonging to Plourde. Theberge then called Janet Brough in the Superintendent of School's office, and Brough called Plourde to give her the news.

''Michelle was shocked. She had just spoken to another colleague that very same day about trying to find the missing wallet/clutch purse. I brought it over to her after sledding was over and she was amazed that everything was intact,'' said Theberge. ''We praise our students for being so honest and not touching anything in the wallet.''

Plourde said that what bothered her the most was the thought that her license was among the missing items and says that she is very grateful to the students for having found her clutch purse.

She said that among the gift cards was one for a hair cut, which she very much appreciated getting back. She rewarded the girls for their honesty with a trip to Dairy Queen.

Meet the candidates for Newfound High School principal

By Thomas P. Caldwell

BRISTOL — The Newfound Area School District will provide opportunities for residents to meet the two finalists for the principal's position at Newfound Regional High School. Christopher Lord will be at the high school media center on Thursday, March 26, from 4 to 5 p.m., while Paul Hoiriis will be there on Thursday, April 2, during the same hours.
The informal sessions will allow the community to meet the candidates and to provide their impressions to the interview committee.
Christopher Lord is co-leader of the High School Principal's Think Tank, based out of Merrimack College. The think tank provides opportunities for the principals to meet and discuss current topics of interest. Lord previously served as the principal of the Andover (Mass.) Public Schools and, for nine years prior to that, he was principal of Shea High School in Pawtucket, R.I.
Lord obtained his bachelor of science and master of arts degrees from Tufts University. He received his master of arts degree in Educational Administration from California State University and his doctor of philosophy degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Connecticut.
He was the Rhode Island Parent Information Network's Principal of the Year in 2004 and was a finalist for the Rhode Island Principal of the Year award in 2011.
Lord has a strong teaching background and has multiple years of administrative experience.
The other candidate, Paul Hoiriis, is the current assistant principal at NRHS. He obtained his bachelor's degree in Business Administration and Political Science from Baylor University and received his juris doctorate from Boston University School of Law.
After serving in a variety of legal positions, Hoiriis found his calling in education. He began his teaching career as a para-educator and quickly moved to a seventh grade Social Studies teaching position at Newfound Memorial Middle School. He began the assistant principalship at NRHS in 2011.
The NH Association of School Principals New Hampshire named Hoiriis Assistant Principal of the Year for 2015 and Hoiriis also received the Carole J. Estes Community Leader Award from Communities for Alcohol and Drug Free Youth (CADY).
During the candidate sessions, there will be an opportunity for informal dialogue as well as a more structured question-and-answer time.