LACONIA — The Belknap County Convention's Support Subcommittee (formerly the Administration Subcommittee) learned when it met Friday that a refund from a health insurance provider will increase from $92,848 last year to $254,000 this year.
In addition to that reimbursement from Health Trust, the successor to the Local Government Center (N.H. Municipal Association), which was ordered by the New Hampshire Supreme Court to make the refunds following an investigation by the New Hampshire Bureau of Securities Regulation, there will be a separate $75,000 refund from Primex, another insurer ordered to make reimbursements to government entities which it had insured.
The Local Government Center was found to have been using excess premiums from its health insurance policies to subsidize losses incurred in a new worker's compensation insurance product line.
County Finance Director Glenn Waring said that the refunds are likely to continue, but not to the extent that they reached this year.
He said that the Health Trust refund will continue as long as Belknap County remains a member of the trust.
County Commissioners have expressed the intention to put the health insurance contract for county employees up for bid and recently asked county Administrator Debra Shackett to complete a census which would show what kinds of health insurance programs are used by county employees in order to prepare bid documents.
Subcommittee members asked whether it was possible to reduce the amount to be raised by taxes by the amount of the anticipated refunds and were told that it would entail taking the amount out of both expenses and revenue, which would make it ''invisible''. That prompted Herb Vadney of Meredith, chairman of the subcommittee, to say that he thought it was important that the transactions be more visible to taxpayers.
Committee members also got to look at adjusted lines in the proposed 2015 budget brought about by the desire of the new commissioners to end the practice of atributing a percentage of administrative costs to the nursing home budget.
The adjustments showed administrative salaries increasing by $35,000, from $207,200 in the budget proposed by former commissioners, to $242,600, health insurance from $65,875 to $76,200, payroll tax from $18,400 to $21,200 and retirement from $23,000 t0 $26,900.
Increases in the Finance Office showed wages increasing from $121,000 to $192,900, health insurance from $33,490 to $59,200, payroll tax from $9,700 to $15,300 and retirement from $13,500 to $21,500.
Committee members suggested that it made more sense to spread out the cost, as has been the normal practice of the county for several years, in order to assign the full cost of operating the nursing home to the facility in order to ensure maximum Medicaid reimbursements from the state and federal governments.
Rep. George Hurt of Gilford said ''if we don't put them back over there we have no chance of getting reimbursements.''
The proposed budget also consolidates all county legal expenses into one line and and sets a total of $30,000 for the county. Last year nearly $100,000 was expended and $60,000 of the bills accumulated remain unpaid.
Shackett said that county legal expenses amounted to $30,000 in 2012 and $27,000 in 2013 and that $40,000 was appropriated for last year.
Committee members also discussed the relationship of the county with several organizations of which it is a member, including the New Hampshire Association of Counties and the New Hampshire Municipal Association and the need for them to be more useful to the county.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 February 2015 02:21
GILFORD — There will be some new blood on the Board of Selectmen this year as current Budget Committee Chair Phyllis Corrigan will be challenged by Dale Channing "Chan" Eddy for seat left open by the retirement of John O'Brien.
Corrigan has served on the Budget Committee for 12 of the past 13 years.
"I left for a year but they asked me to come back," she said.
Eddy is a member of the Planning Board and has recently be serving as Gilford's representative to the Lakes Region Public Access Board of Director, where he is the chair.
Six people are vying for three spots on the town's Budget Committee — incumbent Norm Silber, past board member Sean Murphy, Joy Hall, life-ling resident Harry H. Bean III, Zoning Board of Adjustment Chair J. Scott Davis and Leslie Suranyi.
Incumbent Alan Voivoid decide not to seek a second term and the Board Chair is Corrigan who will be running for selectmen.
Three seats on the School Board are up for election this year. Jack Landow is the only candidate for a special one-year term created last year by the resignation of Allan Demko. Landow was appointed to the position by the School Board and will now likely be elected on his own.
Two, regular three-year terms are to be filled from a field of five candidates. Sue Allen is the only incumbent running as Kurt Webber declined to seek re-election to another term. She is joined on the ballot by Pamela Hayes, Jennifer McGreevey, Christopher McDonough and David "Skip" Murphy.
Election day is Tuesday, March 10.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 February 2015 02:07
ALTON — Police Chief Ryan Heath announced the loss of the K-9 "Zeke" yesterday.
He said "Zeke", who had been with the department for 11 years, died after a brief illness Thursday.
"Zeke" was a long-haired German Shepherd who came to the department as a puppy from Michigan. K-9 handler and Patrol Officer Chris Johnson, a certified working dog trainer, trained him.
Heath said that "Zeke" was 11-years-old and had recently been taken off patrol and used specifically for drug searches.
"He was one of the best drug dogs I've ever seen," Heath said.
Heath said the Alton Police have a second dog, "Siren", also a German Shepard who came from the same Michigan breeder. She is also trained in both drugs detection and apprehension.
He said Johnson worked both dogs at the same time and had a split cage in the rear of his cruiser. Trained by Johnson, Heath said "Siren" will take over both jobs for the department.
Heath said "Zeke" was a special favorite of the Alton community and used to perform with Johnson at a variety of community and school events. He was known for his gentle demeanor and for his performances around the state.
The department is planning some kind of community memorial for "Zeke" and Heath said he will be letting the general public know what time and where the ceremony will be once the details are finalized.
He said "Zeke" is also memorialized on the Alton Police Department Facebook page and invites anyone to go there and leave a message for Officer Johnson and his family.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 February 2015 02:02
Thomas P. Caldwell
BRISTOL — Supporters of full-day kindergarten are so convinced of its merits that they are willing to override the property tax cap and gamble that a majority of Newfound Area School District voters will agree, even if it means implementing an imperfect program that may require unplanned spending.
The stakes are high: if voters reject the petitioned warrant article on March 10, the Newfound Area School Board will not be able to address full-day kindergarten until next spring, which might push implementation of the program back to the fall of 2017.
Almost everyone attending Newfound's deliberative session on Jan. 31 agreed on the merits of full-day kindergarten, but many advocated a more considered approach that would provide additional time to plan the program and develop a realistic budget. The $250,000 contained in the petitioned article was at the lower end of the superintendent's top-of-the-head cost estimate of $250,000 to $500,000 for offering full-day kindergarten at the four elementary schools, as well as an option for parents who prefer a half-day program.
The school board and budget committee withheld a recommendation either way because they are legally restricted from recommending spending that would exceed the amount allowed under the school district's tax cap.
Jeff Levesque, the school board member from Groton, said the board is on record as supporting full-day kindergarten, but the majority felt more time was necessary to develop a comprehensive plan that would take into account the possibility that students from families that currently send their children to out-of-district programs would want to attend Newfound if it were offering a full-day program. Those additional students might require more space and additional teachers that would not be covered by the $250,000 appropriation.
"September is coming very soon," Levesque said. "I suggest that someone amend the article to a smaller amount, to prepare for implementing full-day kindergarten in the following year. That would give us sufficient time to prepare and fix the buildings to accommodate the additional students. If we do it halfway, we're probably doing more harm than good."
School Board Vice-Chair Vincent Paul Migliore of Bridgewater disagreed. He pointed out that the first signature on the petition for full-day kindergarten is that of N.H. Commissioner of Education Virginia M. Barry, who resides in Bridgewater, and he said the Department of Education could provide help in planning the program. "It could be implemented fairly quickly," Migliore said.
Bob Brooks of Hebron offered an amendment that would change the implementation date to 2016 but his amendment failed.
David Hill of Bristol was one of the few to speak against full-day kindergarten, arguing that, while kindergarten gives students a head start, that advantage is gone by the time they reach second grade.
Susan Duncan of Bristol said has fought for kindergarten for years, including back when her husband was serving as a member of the school board. "Before I leave this earth, I'd like to know this district is providing full-day kindergarten," she said.
There was an even longer discussion on another petitioned article, calling for $15,000 to fund the Junior Bears middle school football program and bring it under the district's control. The majority of the speakers offered testimony about the importance of the program as a feeder to the high school program, its promoting discipline and self-esteem, and the effect on academic motivation, since athletes must maintain good grades if they are to remain on the team.
Budget committee member Jeff Bird of Bridgewater said a football program like that would have helped him. "The only thing worse than my athletic ability was my grades," he said. "Without football, I didn't have any reason to get good grades."
The wording of the article was confusing to many, calling for "the surrounding towns of the Newfound School District" to raise $15,000 "per school year" to support the program. Bruce Wheeler of Bristol offered the first amendment, striking "surrounding" from the phrase. "I'm sure we'd all appreciate it if Plymouth, Gilford, and other surrounding towns paid all of our school district costs," he said, "but that's not going to happen."
There were several attempts to address the "$15,000 per year" phrase, the first failing because it replaced "per year" with "for start-up costs" but, as Brian Richardson of Alexandria pointed out, the program has been operating for 10 years as an all-volunteer program, so its start-up costs are in the past. The amendment that finally passed simply dropped "per year" so the article does not imply that it will cost the district $15,000 every year — although there will be funds in future budgets to continue the program.
When it came time to address the main budget article, there was an attempt to reduce it by $16,000, the cost of a new projection system for the auditorium that some felt was unnecessary, with the idea of covering the cost of the football program with that money. The amendment failed on a strong voice vote, and the budget will appear on the ballot as presented. The proposed budget is $21,948,204, with a default budget of $22,139,936.
There were questions but little discussion on the other articles: the cost items of a two-year teachers' agreement, the placing of $60,000 from the unexpended fund balance into the expendable trust fund for building maintenance, and giving permission for the school board to negotiate a tuition agreement with Hill.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 February 2015 01:57
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