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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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Natural-filter catch basin stands guard over Paugus Bay

LACONIA — At the annual meeting of the Lakes Region Planning Commission the city received an award of excellence for an innovative stormwater management project to protect and improve water quality in Paugus Bay, the source of municipal drinking water.

Luke Powell, assistant director of Public Works, who accepted the award, said that the project grew out of a comprehensive study of drainage throughout the city that began in 2009. The original stormwater drainage system, he explained, was designed to move water off the streets and into the lake as quickly as possible, which ensured that pollutants would be carried into the lake as well. He said that most pollutants — brake dust, oil residue, bird droppings and so on — are swept into the lakes by the "first flush," or first inch of rainfall. Capturing and treating the that first inch of rain, Powell said, has a significant impact on the quality of water in the lakes.

The Department of Public Works chose to address the situation at the junction of Lake Street, White Oaks Road and Weirs Boulevard where severe storms have caused damage to private property and carried sediment into Paugus Bay. With a grant from the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services a bio-retention basin, designed by Mike Redding of Louriero Engineering Associates of Plainville, Connecticut, was constructed by a crew from the DPW consisting of John Neill, Steve Smith, Hank Denison, Jason Storey and Jim Culpon. The Paugus View Condominium Association granted an easement, which ensured the basin was large enough to be effective.

Powell said that the basin operates with compost and plants to remove pollutants from the "first flush" of stormwater. As stormwater enters the basin it passes through an open rock surface then through a layer of compost two-and-a-half feet thick, which acts like a sponge to remove pollutants. The treated stormwater slowly seeps into the surrounding soils and groundwater, lessening the discharge to the lake. When stormwater ponds in the basin, plants on its slopes absorb it and removing pollutants.

Powell said that bio-retention basins can remove between 80-peercent and 90-percent of petroleum residues and between 70-percent and 80-percent of nutrients and metals.

Powell said that although this is an effective means of safeguarding water quality in the lakes, there are few sites in the city with sufficient space to construct similar systems.

Last Updated on Thursday, 19 June 2014 01:28

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On average, House Republican Alliance rates Belknap County reps as the most loyal

LACONIA — The 18 members of the New Hampshire House of Representatives from Belknap County topped their counterparts from the other nine counties in the annual ranking compiled by the House Republican Alliance (HRA), which grades the voting records of lawmakers according to how closely they match the GOP platform.

The county delegation, including its five Democratic representatives, posted an average score of 66.1 percent, indicating that the members followed the recommendations of the HRA on two-thirds of the 118 bills it scored. The Rockingham County delegation recorded the second highest score of 59.9 percent. Cheshire County, where 20 of the 23 representatives are Democrats, returned the lowest score of just 16.9-percent. The HRA scored the entire House of 400 members at 43.3 percent.

In Belknap County, Rep. Jane Cormier (R-Alton), who resigned her seat last month when she moved to Hooksett, was the only member to achieve a perfect score of 100 percent while voting on two-thirds of the scored bills. However, nine of the 13 Republican members of the delegation topped 90 percent — Reps. Michael Sylvia of Belmont (97.9), Herb Vadney of Meredith (97.4), Guy Comtois of Barnstead (96), Bob Luther of Laconia (95.7), Charles Fink of Belmont (92.9), Colette Worsman of Meredith (92.8), Bob Greemore of Meredith (92.2) and Stephen Holmes of Alton (90.8).

Among the Republicans, Rep. Dennis Fields of Sanbornton posted the lowest score of 58.5-percent, followed by Don Flanders of Laconia (69.9), Frank Tilton of Laconia (73.7) and Richard Burchell of Gilmanton (84.5).

Excluding the Democrats, the average score of the 13 Republican members of the Belknap County delegation was 87.8 percent.

Among the five Democrats, Ruth Gulick posted the highest score of 11 percent and Ian Raymond of Sanbornton the lowest score of 8.5 percent. Altogether the average score of the Democrats was 9.7 percent.

Last Updated on Thursday, 19 June 2014 01:17

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