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Gilford has list of questions for Arbo Ministries

GILFORD — Selectmen last night delayed making a final decision about granting Arbo Ministries of 14 Curtis Road any property tax exemption.

After consulting with it's attorney, the board instead agreed to send a letter asking 13 questions of Barbara and Steve Arbo — inquiring about religious activities and functions for the upcoming year and the actual amount of space in the home on the property that will be used for those functions.

Other questions including one about the denomination, sect or creed of Arbo Ministries and the credentials or certifications of its ministers, pastors or religious leaders who are engaged in potentially tax exempt activities at the property.

The property is currently assessed at $590,530.

Arbo Ministries of Texas purchased the former Smiling Hill Farm as some know it, or the Guild Farm as others know it, last year for the purposes of "teach(ing) and preach(ing) the gospel of Jesus Christ through every means possible – ie books, CDs, radio, Internet and public services."

The ministry initially applied to the Zoning Board of Adjustments for a special exemption to the existing zoning ordinance for use as a church but later withdrew its application after agreeing with the Planning Board to create a "home-based" business instead.

The ministry's application said the property is 2.88 acres and 55 percent of that is for support of the parsonage, 10 percent will be used for ministry offices and 35 percent will be used as a prayer center.

Since the purchase and the approval of the "home occupation", Arbo Ministries has used the property for religious activities six days in September of 2014, six days in October, five days in November, one day in December, five days January and two days in February, according to the ministries records submitted with its request for tax exemption.

The selectmen indicate this is about 7-percent of the 181 days that passed until the date of the request.

Selectmen also want to know if Arbo Ministries is seeking an exemption for 100 percent of the property. Town Appraiser Wil Cocoran said his company's review of the application and approval by the Planning Board indicates it could be eligible for 35 percent of its holdings being property tax exempt.

Selectmen also asked Arbo Ministries if it would be willing to make a payment in lieu of taxes (PILU) because, despite its stated mission, it still uses town services like roads, fire and police to function.

Selectmen also told the ministry that its request was for the tax year beginning in April of 2015 so any outstanding taxes owed to date will not be considered.

The board said it would reevaluate the request once it has all of the answers and has given the ministry 30 days to file a reply.

Last Updated on Thursday, 26 March 2015 01:07

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Plan for moving Newfound 6th graders out of middle school now due in September

By Thomas P. Caldwell

BRISTOL — The Newfound Area School Board agreed on March 23 that it was "not unreasonable" for Superintendent Stacy Buckley to have until September to prepare a plan originally due in April to move sixth graders out of the middle school and back into the district's elementary schools.
Buckley asked for more time because the voters' approval of a petitioned warrant article calling for full-day kindergarten next year meant she would need to reassess space needs and develop an implementation plan, including the likely hiring of additional teachers and the purchase of furniture to accommodate more young students.
While she was well along in her investigation into how to accommodate the sixth graders in the district's four elementary schools, Buckley said the planning may prove to be for naught if the number of kindergarten students should require converting additional classrooms to accommodate them.
The school district has advertised to have parents notify the superintendent if they will be sending their children to Newfound for kindergarten. While the district currently offers a half-day kindergarten program and knows how many students to expect from participating families, there will likely be additional students when it offers a full-day program. Some families are sending their children to private kindergartens now because that is their only option if they want more than a half-day program.
Buckley said she already knows there is a need for an additional classroom at Bristol Elementary School. The Bridgewater-Hebron Village School has a classroom available and the district would utilize that as a second new kindergarten space. Danbury has no space beyond the additional classroom planned for next year, and in New Hampton, the district would have to use the building known as the Little Red Schoolhouse to accommodate additional kindergarten students.
"I'm not sure with our space issues that we can do sixth grade in the elementary schools," Buckley told the board.
The superintendent said that, once the kindergarten program is up and running, she would be able to put together the sixth grade plan and present it to the board in September, in time for budget season.
Citing evidence that students do better the longer they remain in elementary school, the school board had asked the superintendent to look into moving the sixth grade out of Newfound Memorial Middle School and to come up with an implementation plan by April so they could make whatever adjustments were necessary to implement the change in the 2016-2017 school year.
Not everyone agreed with that decision and one of its prime supporters, Ruby Hill of Danbury, did not seek re-election this year. She still received the highest number of write-ins in the March election where no one else from Danbury ran for school board, but she has not accepted the position and the school district is waiting for the Danbury selectmen to name their representative to the Newfound Area School Board.
The March 23 meeting was the school board's organizational meeting and it chose Jeff Levesque of Groton to succeed Hill as board chair and Don Franklin of Hebron as vice-chair. The board reelected Leah McDevitt as clerk and Michelle Escobar as treasurer.
Levesque did not make committee assignments, asking board members to send him their preferences, and he will present a list of assignments at the April meeting.
Most of the meeting concerned changes the policy committee had recommended, and Franklin reported on the auditor's report which was largely favorable. The items of concern were noted as were the suggestions by Business Administrator Michael Limanni to address them.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 March 2015 12:53

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School officials looking to cut $474 to meet tax cap

LACONIA — School Superintendent Terri Forsten told the City Council this week that the School Board is seeking to trim $474,000 from its 2015-2016 budget to comply with the limits of the city's property tax cap.

Business Administrator Ed Emond explained that revenues from sources other than property taxes are projected to rise by $690,000, which together with the $710,000 additional spending allowed by the tax cap will enable the school district budget to increase by $1.4 million. However, the board foresees "needs and obligations" totaling $1,874,000. These include increases of $662,000 in health insurance costs, $660,000 in payroll expense, $58,000 in debt service, $16,000 in busing costs, $268,000 in retirement contributions and $210,000 in strategic planning initiatives.

The strategic planning initiatives include a full-time law enforcement instructor — replacing two part-timers — and 14-passenger van for the Huot Technical Center, staffing and material expenses at the elementary schools, transportation costs for Project Extra, security cameras at all schools and a pay raise for substitute teachers.

Forsten suggested that some costs would be spared through attrition, anticipating a number of retirements and indicating that the positions would not be filled.

Forsten said that while enrollment has declined in seven of the past eleven years but risen slightly this year, the number of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, which is a measure of financial hardship, has increased in ten of those same years. In 2004, the 788 students who were eligible for the federal lunch program represented 32 percent of the total enrollment of 2,443, but this year their number grew to 1,270, or 60 percent of the student body of 2,107. Moreover, 90 percent of those eligible qualified for free rather than reduced-price lunch, indicating a higher level of hardship.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 March 2015 12:38

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2nd-hand stores that buy from the public would be covered by new pawshop regulation ordinance

LACONIA — The Government Operations and Ordinances Sub-Committee of the City Council on Monday unanimously endorsed a proposal by the Licensing Board to tighten the ordinance regulating the operations of pawnshops and secondhand dealers, which will be presented to the council for approval next month.

A secondhand dealer is defined as any person or corporation that buys, sells or exchanges secondhand goods, but the definition would apply only to those who purchase secondhand articles "directly" from the general public.
Both pawnshops and secondhand dealers are regulated by the state. The statute bearing on pawnbrokers (RSA 398) applies only to municipalities with populations of 40,000 or more, but may be adopted by all cities and towns. Although the city enacted an ordinance "to ensure compliance of pawnshops to deal in legally obtained items" in 1975, the state law authorizing the city to license pawnbrokers was not adopted until 2010. The state law authorizes municipalities licensing pawnbrokers to also regulate them. Consequently, at the same time, the ordinance was amended to require pawnbrokers to provide the police a written record of property within 24 hours of receiving it and to hold property for 14 days before selling it.

However, the ordinance applied only to pawnbrokers, and in December 2013 the police recommended it be extended to secondhand dealers under the authority granted to municipalities by state law (RSA 322).
Detective Kevin Butler told the committee that less than 20 businesses in the city would be subject to the ordinance. Although no business owners attended the committee meeting, Butler said that when the terms and purpose of the ordinance were explained, the legitimate businesses understood that it was intended to discourage trade in stolen goods and would protect them against receiving stolen goods.
The proposal prepared by the Licensing Board would apply to both pawnbrokers and secondhand dealers and would require both to be licensed by the city. A pawnbroker is defined as any person or corporation that lends money at interest and takes property as security, which may be sold if not redeemed.

Applications would be submitted to the city and investigated by the police. who would report to Licensing Board. No license would be issued to any firm, whose owners or employees had been convicted of theft, burglary, fraud or receiving stolen property in the prior 10 years. Licenses would be issued for a specific location and could not be transferred to another person or corporation. Licenses would carry an initial fee of $100 and an annual renewal fee of $25.
Pawnbrokers and secondhand dealers would be required to record the date and time of purchases, amount paid or loaned, as well as the interest rate, along with the name and address of the seller or borrower, type of article, brand name, model number, and serial number, color, any identifying marks; and if jewelry, the metal as well as kind, number and, if known, carat of any stones. The transaction record would include a color image of the property. The ordinance would require transaction records be kept for seven years
Sellers and borrowers would be required to produce photographic identification, including their full name, date of birth and street address, which the pawnbroker or secondhand dealer would attach tot he transaction record. Transactions with anyone younger than 18 would be prohibited unless they were accompanied by a parent or guardian, who would be required to sign the transaction record.
Pawnbrokers would required to hold property taken in pawn for four months after acquiring it, unless the item was perishable, in which case it could be disposed of within a month with permission of the police. Pawnbrokers or secondhand dealers purchasing property for money would be required to hold it for 14 days. Pawnbrokers and secondhand dealers would be required to file transaction records electronically on a specified form with the police within 24 hours of the close of the business day when the transaction occurred. Violations of the ordinance would carry a fine of $100 per day or suspension or revocation of license

Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 March 2015 12:16

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