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Bridgewater & Hebron school withdrawal study will dive into details of a breakup

BRISTOL — Voters of Bridgewater and Hebron will learn the costs and possible tradeoffs of withdrawing from the Newfound Area School District in September, according to the timeline set on June 16.
The Bridgewater-Hebron Withdrawal Study Committee expects to meet again toward the end of August after its education and finance subcommittees have a chance to pull together the data they need to determine those impacts. Committee Chair Ruby Hill of Danbury will set the exact date once the subcommittees indicate that they will be ready.
Patrick Moriaty of Hebron serves as chair of both subcommittees and he reported that a scheduling error for the education subcommittee held up the first meeting; and the finance committee could not proceed with its work until it has an idea of the educational model that will be used. However, the superintendent and business manager have provided some initial information that will allow the subcommittees to move ahead quickly when they next meet.
"Stacy (Buckley, superintendent) and Mike (Limanni, business manager) have been very helpful," Moriaty said, "and we've had a lot of good discussion."
Limanni said there are a lot of options to consider and noted that he and Buckley currently are working to determine the costs associated with meeting the state's minimum standards. The education subcommittee then will have a baseline cost to which they will be able to add in other programs.
The Bridgewater-Hebron Village School currently serves kindergarten through Grade 5; the subcommittee's assumption is that the school will serve K-8 if the two towns withdraw. There currently are 158 students at the school, of which 59 come from the two towns. Fifty students from Alexandria attend the school, along with 21 from Groton, 15 from Bristol, nine from New Hampton, and four from Danbury.
The first option to consider is that the school would serve only students from Bridgewater and Hebron. With the three additional grade levels, the population would be about 100 students. It currently costs $2.4 million to operate the school and Limanni said that cost would not necessarily be lower with a lower population, as the school still would need to staff enough teachers for the classes, even if the class size dropped to seven students.
The new school district optionally could accept other students on a tuition basis to more closely approach the school's capacity and reduce the per-pupil cost. However, students from the two towns would need to attend either Newfound or Plymouth high school, adding to the cost for those towns. That assumes those school districts would accept the Bridgewater-Hebron students.
While School Administrative Unit 48 Superintendent Mark Halloran has said Plymouth would welcome the students, he has not provided a tuition figure which prompted Vincent Paul Migliore of Bridgewater to suggest that the committee request that information so it can be factored into the costs. Rick Alpers of Bristol made that motion, directing Buckley to make the request of Halloran.
Jim Phelps of Danbury asked what would happen if the voters of the two towns decided it was not to their advantage to withdraw. Bridgewater Selectman Terry Murphy said they had agreed that both towns would need to approve it for the withdrawal to move forward. If either or both towns vote after learning the facts that it is not feasible to withdraw, that would put an end to the matter, he said.
Hill asked for other committee members to step up to serve on the finance subcommittee, saying she had noticed that only one member — Alpers — was not from Bridgewater or Hebron. Christina Goodwin of Groton agreed to serve on the subcommittee.
There was some discussion at the beginning of the meeting about the current lease on the school. The Bridgewater-Hebron Village District had built and maintains the school, leasing it to the Newfound Area School District for $1 per year in a 10-year agreement. There was some concern about whether the school board would relinquish the lease.
"If the school board doesn't want to release the Bridgewater-Hebron Village School from the lease, we should know that up front," Migliore said.
Hill said that concern was premature, as the committee has not yet decided whether to recommend the withdrawal.
Murphy noted that the lease is worded in such a way that either party can terminate it; or, if both sides agree, they can modify the agreement.
Should the two towns vote to move forward with the withdrawal, the school board would submit the proposal to the NH Department of Education for approval at the beginning of November so the State Board can hear the matter on Nov. 16.

Last Updated on Thursday, 19 June 2014 12:57

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Household income in Laconia took spill from 2000-2011

LACONIA — Federal income tax data indicates that the sluggish economy and aging population took a heavy toll on the city between 2000 and 2011, the most recent year the information is readily available.

At the turn of the century, average adjusted gross income (AGI), adjusted for inflation, of tax returns filed in the 03246 zip code was $44,968. By 2011, AGI had shrunk by 18.5-percent to $36,661. During the same period the number of income tax returns filed dropped from 8,680 to 7,879, a decrease of almost 10 percent. The number of business returns filed dropped by nearly 100, from 1,143 to 1,046, a decline of 8.5-percent.

Reflecting the downward pressures on incomes, the numbers of those filing returns for earned income tax credits, a refundable tax credit for individuals and couples with low to moderate earnings — especially those with children, rose by almost half, from 1,000 in 2000 to 1,453 in 2011, a jump of 45-percent.

The age of primary taxpayers mirrored the aging demographic of the city. In 2000, 2,367 returns were filed by taxpayers younger than 30, but by 2011, their numbers had fallen by 21-percent to 1,861. Likewise, the number of returns filed by taxpayers aged between 30 and 44 declined by 25-percent , from 2,291 to 1,715. The number of returns filed by taxpayers aged between 45 and 60 remained stable at around 2,170, but returns filed by taxpayers aged 60 or more climbed nearly 15-percent, from 1,852 to 2,126.

(The raw numbers referred to in this article are provided to the public by the website melissadata.com.)

Last Updated on Thursday, 19 June 2014 12:22

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School Board asking City Council to back away from $50k budget cut

LACONIA — Responding to Councilor Henry Lipman's request that the School District look at cutting $50,000 from its proposed 2014-2015 budget, members of the district's Budget and Personnel Committee decided on Tuesday to send a letter to the council explaining that while they can do it, the cuts they have already made to stay within their initial property tax cap allocation are already hurting the schools.

The committee said they will reiterate that in order to meet the parameters of the tax cap — which allowed for a $568,000 maximum increase — meant eliminating $517,000 worth of planned expenditures from their initial budget draft because mandated line item expenses that must be included in next year's budget were up by $1.2-million.

The $1.2-million in "beyond the school district's control" includes contractual employee raises, health insurance increases, increased federally-mandated special education costs, increases in contributions to the state retirement fund and other similar items.

To eliminate $517,000 from the proposed budget the district cut a math teacher at the high school, an English teacher at the high school, a guidance counselor at the middle school, a special education teacher at the high school, a media specialist at Woodland Heights Elementary School, and one full-time and one part-time English as a second language teachers. Three full-time specialists were reduced to part time.

Business Administrator Ed Emond said he suggested to the City Council last week that he was cautiously optimistic that he could add $50,000 to the projected revenue line, noting that he slightly under-estimated the school adequacy revenue from the state and Medicaid revenue in the initial proposed budget.

Such an addition would have the same net affect on the total amount to be collected in property taxes as a like cut in planned expenses.E

Emond also noted the suggestion was not warmly received by most of the City Council members who seemed to want a $50,000 cut from the expenditure side. Emond noted that Ward 6 Counciler Armand Bolduc supported the school budget as presented while those that wanted to see an additional $50,000 cut from it were led by Ward 3 Councilor Henry Lipman.

Emond explained to the committee that if the $50,000 was added to the revenue side the district will have more flexibility as to where it makes its cuts should the revenue not materialized. He also said the city's tax rate goal would be met either way.

Committee Chair Scott Vachon agreed with Emond but said if the council insists on $50,000 from the expenditure side, the district should not target any specific line items but simply agree to reduce the budget and let Emond massage the line items.

Vachon noted that the City Council has no right to micro-manage the budget through budget line items and he's fairly sure that's not the city's intention.

The requested budget for the 2015-2016 budget is $36,293,552 up from $34,967,696 for this year. The proposed amount to be raised by local taxes plus the state-wide property tax for education support is $22,234,344 up from the 2014-2015 amount of $21,680,004 or $554,340.

The School District is scheduled to meet with the City Council around 8 p.m. Monday after the public hearing on the entire proposed city budget that begins at 7 p.m.

Last Updated on Thursday, 19 June 2014 12:19

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Man held on $5k cash bail after allegedly choking girlfriend

LACONIA — A former Blueberry Lane man who allegedly tried to choke his girlfriend on June 2, was arrested yesterday by Belknap County Sheriff's deputies when he appeared in Belknap County Superior Court for an unrelated matter.

David Nelson is being held on $5,000 cash-only bail after appearing by video in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division.

Nelson, 26, is charged with second-degree assault, one misdemeanor count of criminal mischief for allegedly punching holes in the wall of his apartment and tearing out a light fixture, and one count of criminal threatening for allegedly threatening to slash the tires of the alleged victim's car.

According to affidavits obtained from the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division, Nelson allegedly came home drunk and began fighting with his girlfriend. The argument allegedly began in the living room but moved to the bedroom which is where Nelson tried to choke her.

The victim told police she had to squeeze his groin to get him to stop.

The victim texted her neighbor who called police. As the police began to arrive affidavits said Nelson ran into the woods. He was spotted by a responding police officer but when the officer turned around to talk to him, he had fled.

Police issued the warrant for his arrest on June 2.

Last Updated on Thursday, 19 June 2014 01:31

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