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Bill would exclude courts from school funding debates

House Bill 174 would leave little recourse for public on adequacy

By MICHAEL KITCH, THE LACONIA DAILY SUN

CONCORD — Amid growing concern among municipalities and school districts across the state at the prospect of reduced state aid to education, legislation has been introduced to limit the jurisdiction of the courts over the statutes defining the content of an adequate education and distributing state funds to provide for it.
House Bill 174 would specifically exempt RSAs 193-E and 198, the statutes originally enacted in 1999 to address the New Hampshire Supreme Court’s ruling in so-called Claremont suit, from the jurisdiction of the Superior Court. “This would take the courts out of the school funding business,” said newly elected state Sen. Harold French (R- Franklin), one of the sponsors of the bills. “The final word would be with the Legislature.”
The legislation was filed on the heels of a court decision that found legislation that capped state aid distributed to school districts with enrollment unconstitutional and just as cities, towns and school districts have begun to urge the Legislature to reverse its decision to phase out so-called stabilization grants.
The grants were introduced in 2012, when lawmakers rewrote the formula for distributing state aid, reducing reimbursements for special education students and funding for districts with relatively less property value per student. The grants were intended to offset the diminished funding, which weighed most heavily on property poor municipalities. For example, in fiscal year 2016 the stabilization grant to Laconia amounted to $1,463,505, or more than a fifth of all its state aid. In Franklin the stabilization grant represents about half of its $8 million in state aid. In Coos County, the city of Berlin and 17 towns receive more than $14 million in stabilization grants.
However, beginning in fiscal year 2017, the stabilization grants will be reduced 4 percent a year for the next 25 years until they are eliminated altogether. In October, officials in Franklin and Northfield approached 45 municipalities at risk of foregoing at least $1 million a year when the stabilization grants are phased out “to explore legislative and/or legal solutions needed to protect the fiscal integrity of our schools and communities.”
House Bill 174 would would appear to foreclose a legal solution. “It would leave the responsibility for funding education to the Legislature,” French said. “The Legislature could work more effectively without having to refer to the court.” At the same time, French said that the sponsors of the bill “are working on the stabilization issue” as well as seeking to eliminate mandates the state imposes on local school district but fails to fund.
House Bill 174 is sponsored by Rep. Greg Hill (R-Northfield) and co-sponsored by Rep. Dan Itse (R-Fremont) and senators French, Bob Giuda (R-Warren) and Kevin Avard (R-Nashua).

 

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Freezing Franklin First Day

12-31 Winnipesaukee River ice Franklin

Ice which has formed in the lower section of the Winnipesaukee River in Franklin will make it difficult for all but the most experienced kayakers to complete the traditional New Year’s Day run down the river. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

Ice in river complicates traditional New Year’s Day kayak run

By ROGER AMSDEN, for THE LACONIA DAILY SUN
FRANKLIN — First Day Franklin will go on as usual on New Year's Day, but ice which has formed in the lower part of the Winnipesaukee River near the downtown area will likely bring far fewer kayaks than usual to that part of the river.
Dan Darling of Choose Franklin says that thanks to the efforts of Marty Parichand, owner of the Outdoor New England store in Franklin, and Ken Norton of the Merrimack Valley Paddlers and the state of New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, there will be a water release to increase river water flow Sunday.
"Because of their efforts, kayaking will be possible, especially on the upper portion of the river. But the ice in the lower part of the river has constricted some of the passageways through the rapids and only experienced kayakers will be making runs on the lower section and under the rail trestle," says Darling.
The traditional New Year's Day kayaking event on the Winnipesaukee River has been hosted for 36 years by the Merrimack Valley Paddlers. Kayakers put into the river at two different points, the upper course, which runs from Rte. 140 in Tilton to the Merrimack Valley Railroad station in Northfield, and the lower course, which runs from Cross Mill Road in Northfield and into Trestle View Park in downtown Franklin.
He said kayakers are expected to take to the water between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. and that festivities planned at Trestle View Park will go on as planned. Darling said that Franklin businesses are ready to welcome one and all for the day, and to celebrate the grand opening of Outdoor New England.
He said that Choose Franklin has expanded its offering of events to ring in the New Year. Children's events will be happening at Marceau Park and in The Franklin Studio, sponsored by the Franklin Junior Youth Group. A family scavenger hunt will be distributed at Trestle View Park; prizes include $50 to The Franklin Studio and $25 to Franklin Clothing Company, sponsored by Franklin Savings Bank and Scott Stanley Electric.

CAPTION:
Ice which has formed in the lower section of the Winnipesaukee River in Franklin will make it difficult for all but the most experienced kayakers to complete the traditional New Year's Day run down the river. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)

 

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Laconia Police log Dec. 30

The Laconia Police Department responded to 59 calls between Dec. 29 at noon and Dec. 30 at noon, including three accidents, one non-fatal drug overdose, and a burglary at Pizza Hut. Police also responded to two disturbance calls at 72 Batchelder St. and two more at other locations.

Police made two arrests.
• Tyler M. Ford, transient of Laconia, 23, was arrested for breach of bail and criminal trespassing.
• Corey Jay West, transient of Laconia, 30, was arrested on a bench warrant.

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