Stand Up Laconia to host open mic coffee house Thursday night

LACONIA — Stand Up Laconia will be holding an open mic night coffee house as part of its five-year celebration on Thursday, July 14, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., at Pitman's Freight Room in Laconia.
All members of the community are welcome to attend and perform during the evening. Any form of creative expression including poetry, instrumental pieces, songs, short stories and more can be shared during the event. A light meal and refreshments will be provided by the Soda Shoppe. Entry is free but donations are appreciated.
Stand Up Laconia is a grassroots coalition working to raise awareness and prevention around the issue of substance misuse. The mission of the organization is to effectively and compassionately confront the causes and consequences of substance misuse by advocating for prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery.
For more information, call Clare Persson at 387-4270 or visit www.standuplaconia.com.

Banding together - Debbie Gibson, others ask city School Board to reconsider band schedule

By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — Although the Laconia High School Band did not play a fanfare when Brendan Minnihan, the newly appointed superintendent of schools, attended his first meeting of the School Board last evening, he got an earful just the same.
Outgoing music director Debbie Gibson, along with some two dozen band members and their parents, once again urged the the administration and the board to reverse the decision to schedule band as an after-school program and return it to the school day with other academic classes.
Even before they spoke, Minnihan remarked that while he might have thought the crowd came to welcome him, he knew better, then added that “There might be some options for band.” In light of the time of year, he said “It is nearly impossible to make it like it was,” but then assured the students and parents that “We’ll look at the schedule in general for 2017-2018 and see what we can do.”
Timothy King, fresh from Boy Scout camp, seized on Minnihan’s remarks, stressing that he understood “nearly impossible” to mean “it’s possible” and, standing to attention and raising his hand he asked the board “On your honor, please do your best.”
“You need to keep it at what it is,” said Linda Phelps, a grandmother. “A lot of kids can’t stay after school, “ she continued. “If it were sports they’d be bending over backwards to give them their time.”
She was echoed by her husband, Brian, who reminded the board that Gibson began with 28 musicians and grew the band to 70.
“Having band at the end of the day is not going to cut it,” he said. “Don’t quit!”
Josh Chandler urged Minnihan to put himself in the place of a parent with a child faced with choosing between playing in the band or pursuing other activities after school.
Calling the music program “a hidden jewel for the city of Laconia,” William Cone, a rising sophomore, said that he owed much of the success he enjoyed as a freshman to playing in the band. He expected he would be overwhelmed by carrying five classes including band and feared many students would forsake band or chorus because of the changed schedule. He recalled traveling to Disney World, where the band won “best in class,” and doubted his younger brother would have the same opportunity.
Gibson presented the board with three scheduling options for incorporating the music program — band and chorus — into the school day without requiring additional staff or incurring additional costs. She referred to research that demonstrated that after-school music programs suffer a high drop-out rate. Other research indicated that there is no difference in academic achievement among students who leave class for music instruction and those who do not. A study of 15,000 students in Ohio concluded by ninth-grade students of low socioeconomic status not only overcame disparities in achievement but performed better than their peers of higher status in math, science, reading and citizenship.
After the meeting, Gibson said that her successor, Krin Montrose, has been discussing the issue with school administrators and David Bartlett, recently named interim principal of Laconia High School, acknowledged that the scheduling of band is an ongoing topic of conversation with the music director.

 

07-13 Debbi Gibson at Lac SB

Retired music director for Laconia School District Debbie Gibson speaks to the school board about her desire to keep band as a regular class, not an after-school activity. (Michael Kitch/Laconia Daily Sun)

 

$65M city budget given OK

By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — The City Council adopted the 2016-2017 municipal budget this week. Leaving the school district budget unchanged, councilors put the finishing touches to the city budget by shuffling money between line items and tapping into reserve accounts without adding to the bottom line of the spending plan City Manager Scott Myers presented in March.

The grand total appropriation of $64,923,258 represents an increase of $880,506, or 1.4 percent, in the municipal budget. Total revenues from sources other than property taxes rose 0.9 percent to $26,927,422. And the total amount to be raised by property taxes rose by $705,421, or 1.8 percent, to $38,055,836.

The total city appropriation of $23,850,943 represents an increase of $1,045,482, or 4.6 percent, while revenues from sources other than property taxes rose $576,661, or 8.1 percent to $7,665,275. With the the increased revenues, the council was able to spend more than the tax cap would indicate while budgeting within the limits it imposes on the amount to be raised by property taxes. 

The total school appropriation rose slightly, from $37,985,778 to $37,994,497. School revenues shrank by more than $680,000 with a reduction in state aid, while expenses, particularly the cost of special education and health insurance premiums rose by nearly $1 million, requiring some $1.2 million in reduced expenditures to budget within the bounds of the tax cap.

City Manager Scott Myers said Tuesday that since the value of new construction is expected to increase the total assessed valuation by at least $32 million, from $1,883,868,173 to $1,915,868,173, the increase in the budget is projected to add 3 cents to the property tax rate, raising it from $22.20 to $22.23 per $1,000 of assessed value.

Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3), who chairs the Finance Committee, presented a series of motions specifying the adjustments to the budget agreed among the councilors at a work session two weeks ago. Altogether, the council transferred $131,000 from proposed appropriations for street repairs, salaries and overtime wages for firefighters, and debt service on a borrowing to repair the downtown parking garage. An equal amount was applied to appropriate $10,000 to treat milfoil, $60,000 to replace radios for the Fire Department, $30,000 to study downtown parking and $1,000 to design a city flag, while the appropriation for the senior center was increased by $5,000. The council added $25,000 the contingency account in anticipation of defraying expenses incurred should the city seek to purchase the former Laconia State School property on North Main Street.

At the same time, the council agreed to transfer another $254,000 drawn from reserve accounts to provide $78,000 for restoring the tennis courts at Leavitt Park, $15,000 for revitalizing playgrounds, $15,000 for installing bleachers at the softball field at Memorial Park. $35,000 for funding the city's 125th anniversary celebration, $60,000 to replenish the salary line in the Fire Department budget and $16,000 to restore the funding for street repairs. And, at the request of Councilor Bob Hamel (Ward 5) added another $10,000 to repair windows at Laconia High School.

The city budget funds a 2.5 percent cost-of-living adjustment for city employees and a 9.71 percent increase in health insurance contributions. It also includes $1,500,000, an increase of $100,000, for street repairs along with another $275,000 for bridge, sidewalk, guardrail and drainage maintenance and improvements. The budget includes the principal and interest payments on two borrowings, one of $1 million to fund the reconstruction of Lakeside Avenue at The Weirs and another of $300,000 to fund improvements to the storm drains on Messer Street north of the Winnipesaukee River.

Myers originally proposed borrowing $3 million to fund structural repairs to the downtown parking garage. However, the council discarded the proposal and instead applied the principal and interest payment of $30,000 to fund the work of committee that will be convened to study downtown parking. Myers said that, apart from routine maintenance, nothing will be spent to overcome the deficiencies at the parking garage and the top deck will remain closed.

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