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LRGHealthcare declines to make payment in lieu of taxes on exempt property in Gilford

GILFORD  — Gilford's town attorney has advised selectmen that two of the buildings owned by LRGHealthcare in Hillside Park meet tax-exempt criteria.

The question arose earlier in April when the hospital applied for its 2013 tax-exempt status, as it has traditionally done and selectmen wanted to understand better what the town attorney thought.

Atty. Robert Ciandella told selectmen that LRGHealthcare meets the requirements and suggested instead to do the research on a PILOT or payment in lieu of taxes.

PILOTs are payments to communities that enjoy a tax-exempt status but voluntarily, and usually after negotiation, pays the community some money, the amount of which is usually based on the cost of the town services it uses.

After approaching LRGHealthcare about making a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) for its facility on Maple Street, selectmen learned recently that LRGH will not pay one.

After hearing Ciandella's analysis, selectmen voted unanimously Wednesday to grant them the tax exempt status and not to pursue the matter further.

According to a letter sent to the town on October 14 and signed by the MItchell Jean, Esq. Director of Risk Management and Safety, LRGHealthcare feels the two units on Maple Street are appropriately taxed. One of the three buildings in the complex pays property taxes, however the other two are tax-exempt.

"We appreciate the fact that the town is experiencing financial constraints," he wrote. "The hospital is being subjected by the state to Medicaid Enhancement Taxes (MET) taxation in the millions that is putting severe pressure on the organization's finances."

Advanced Orthopedic Specialists are part of LRGH and are located at Hillside Park on Route 11A. LRGHhealthcare pays property taxes to Gilford on one of the three buildings.

According to Ciandella, LRGH meets the four individual criteria for tax-exemption three of which are – that the institution was established and is administered for a charitable purpose; that an obligation exists to perform the organization's stated purpose to the public rather than simply to members of the organization; and that none of the organization's income or profits are used for any purpose other than for which it was established.

Ciandella said the fourth prong - that the land, in addition to being owned by the organization, is occupied by it and used directly for the stated charitable purpose - required some additional analysis. This is the actual use of the property.

Based on data provided to the town attorney by LRGH, 15 percent of the accounts for two of the three units on the property are held by people who are uninsured, under-insured and those who don't have the ability to pay.

In 2009 LRGHealthcare provided discounts and assistance amounting to $299,256. In 2010 it was $430,515, in 2011 it was $594,294 and in 2012 it was $256,651. These discounts and services amount to 13 percent of LRGHealthcare's net revenue.

In addition, Ciandella concluded the sleep center in one unit is the only source for that service in the county and the Rehabilitation/Therapy Department "is the sole source of integrated and coordinated rehabilitation and therapy (Physical, Occupational, and Speech) including hydro-therapy in the county."

Considering the above, the Ciandella determined LRGHealthcare meets the final prong of the four-prong test.

His legal opinion drew heavily on the standards set by the City of Laconia v. Taylor Community when in 2001 the N.H. Supreme Court upheld Taylor Community's tax-exempt status after a lengthy court battle.

The Taylor Community provides the city of Laconia an annual payment in lieu of taxes.

In Gilford, the Wesley Woods housing community pays a payment in lieu of taxes to the town for eight of its units. The PILOT was negotiated this year as a compromise between the two after three years of disagreements and instead of litigation.

Last Updated on Friday, 25 October 2013 02:59

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Commission won't guarantee Gilford a dollar for dollar tax credit

LACONIA — The Belknap County Commissioners this week announced that while the $554,000 appropriation for the Lakes Region Mutual Fire Aid Association (LRMFAA) will be stripped from the 2014 county budget they recommend to the Belknap County Convention, they cannot ensure that the overall budget will be reduced by an equivalent amount.

The LRMFAA includes 36 municipalities. The 25 in Carroll, Grafton, Merrimack and Strafford counties are billed directly by the LRMFAA according to a formula consisting of a fixed charge along with factors for both total population and assessed valuation. Laconia and the 10 townships of Belknap County have not been billed directly by LRMFAA. Instead, their total share of its budget has been included in the county budget, apportioned among them based solely on their share of the total assessed property valuation of the county and paid through the county property tax. Next year the municipalities of Belknap County will also be billed directly based on the formula applied by the LRMFAA.

The commissioners responded to a letter from the Gilford selectmen seeking assurance that since the appropriation for the LRMFAA would not be included in the county budget, the total appropriations "will reflect this reduction so that all of the municipalities affected will be the beneficiary of a county tax savings to offset, in so much as possible, the municipal tax rate increases that will be necessary to fund LRMFAA operations." The selectmen acknowledged that other factors may affect county expenditures, but sought a commitment that the commissioners recognize the need to reduce the county tax rate by an amount "commensurate" with the increase in municipal tax rates.

In reply, the commissioners reminded the selectmen that when the municipalities of Belknap County are billed directly, Gilford is one of the four whose contribution to the LRMFAA's budget will shrink. They went on to say that "to ensure that the entire county budget will be level funded and then further reduced by more than half a million dollars, would be irresponsible."

The commissioners note that county appropriations have not risen since 2008 and fell significantly this year. As a result, they continued, the county has been able to main or reduce the tax burden for the past five years. "We would certainly like to continue that record," the commissioners declared, but explained that the costs of the services the county is required to provide, most of which are increasing. have yet to be determined.

When the municipalities of Belknap County are billed directly by the LRMFAA their relative shares of the agency's budget will change. This year the the 11 municipalities together paid $554,037, distributed as follows: Alton $81,048, Barnstead $27,350, Belmont $34,381, Center Harbor $22,457, Gilford $88,631, Gilmanton $25,680, Laconia $106,731, Meredith $100,545, New Hampton $17,528, Sanbornton $22,072 and Tilton $27,614.

Billed directly, according to the formula applied by the LRMFAA, four towns — all with extensive waterfront — would have paid less while Laconia and six towns would have paid more. The assessment to Alton would have been reduced by $18,922, to Center Harbor by $4,721, to Gilford by $14,326 and to Meredith by $25,445. On the other hand, the assessment to Laconia would have risen by $17,606, to Barnstead by $9,206, to Belmont by $18,290, to Gilmanton by $6,237, to New Hampton by $3,372, to Sanbornton by $4,527 and to Tilton by $4,176.

Last Updated on Friday, 25 October 2013 02:48

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Felch stands between Bolduc & a 16th term on City Council

LACONIA — In perhaps the most keenly contested of the six races for City Counci,l the voters of Ward 6 will choose between incumbent Armand Bolduc, seeking his 16th consecutive term, and Tony Felch, who has campaigned on the theme that "it's time for change."

"I don't just work in Ward 6. I work in all of them," said Bolduc, who also served a term as mayor from 1984-1986 when the councilors elected the mayor from among their number. Apart from longevity, Bolduc's visibility is as a mainstay of the annual Christmas Village and leading figure in the Lakeport Association, make him a formidable opponent to any challenger.

"It's name recognition," said Felch, a Lakeport resident who has managed the Mountain View Apartments for the past 22 years and serves as president of the Leavitt Park Association. "I voted for Armand for many years," he remarked. After a failed write-in campaign in Ward 6 two years ago, Felch said this year he has worked hard to overcome the advantage of an entrenched incumbent. "I've been putting out signs and knocking on doors," he said.

Both candidates are eying the recycling program closely, hoping it will meet the projected reduction in the cost of collecting and disposing of solid waste. Bolduc said that mandatory recycling was "the best choice we had and it's going great." He said that the council respected the opposition to a Pay-As-You-Throw (PAYT) program, but "put the onus on to the taxpayers to recycle. They've seen that it isn't that difficult," he said..

If mandatory recycling reaches the goal, Felch said "I'm all for it, but it it doesn't, I'd support PAYT, but only if the savings were taken off the tax burden." He believes that the program would be more successful and return greater savings if recyclable materials were collected weekly and that the city should seek a workable arrangement in negotiating a new collection contract.

Felch welcomed the prospect of the city investing in the construction of the WOW Trail. "It's just going to take forever if it's left to the private sector," he said. Bolduc said that although he supports the project, he remains concerned about safety on the trail and liability to the city. "The best solution is a chain link fence," he said. Bolduc recognized the concerns of residents of South Down Shores, who have amassed a legal fund to keep the trail from crossing the development. "I understand why they feel that way," he said, adding that he has considered "a couple of alternative routes."

The two agree that the city should pursue the redevelopment of the former Laconia State School in partnership with the state. Bolduc stressed the importance of securing so-called Risley Field, some 60 acres in the northwest corner of the property adjacent to the Robbie Mills Sports Complex, which provides parking space for the facility.

Bolduc said the renovation and expansion of Central Fire Station on North Main Street is "at the top of my agenda." He said that with the construction of the police station and middle school, together with the expansion of the Huot Technical Center and renovations at the high school, "there is one place left to go — the fire station."

Downtown redevelopment is high among Felch's priorities. He said that city officials should work in tandem with the Belknap Economic Development Council (BEDC), following the example of Keene and Monadnock Economic Development Corporation. "We need to think big," he said, suggesting that the BEDC acquire "the worst building, attack it and proceed one piece at a time."

Felch is also bent on eliminating the primary election. This year 548 of the 9,619 registered voters, or 6 percent, cast ballots and one candidate for mayor and another for city council were eliminated at a cost of $10,000. "Getting rid of the primary will save us $10,000 every two years," he said. "It's time for a change."

Last Updated on Friday, 25 October 2013 02:39

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Tim Hayes awarded prestigious Silver Beaver Award

BELMONT — Tim Hayes, owner of Tim Hayes Landscaping and Maintenance, has been recognized with a prestigious Silver Beaver Award by the Daniel Webster Council of the Boy Scouts of America. The award is conferred for distinguished service to youth that is "above and beyond normal duty" and in keeping with the spirit of the "Good Daily Turn".

Hayes has been actively involved as an adult scouting volunteer for more than 15 years. He has served in a variety of leadership positions, including for BSA Pack and Troop #65. He has been a unit commissioner and merit badge counselor at the BSA district level and has served as a member of the Griswold Scout Reservation Camping and Properties Committee for a number of years. In 2012, he participated in the Boy Scouts of America National Camping School, where he earned a certificate as a camp ranger.

The Daniel Webster Council noted that Hayes "continues to work tirelessly at our camping properties, particularly at Hidden Valley Scout Camp (Gilmanton), where he has contributed countless hours of volunteer service. . ."

In the Belmont community, Hayes has served as an assistant coach for youth basketball, has worked with students at the Huot Regional Technical Education Center in Laconia on special projects and works as a liaison with the Belmont Conservation Commission.

As a scout himself, Hayes attained the rank of Eagle Scout and earned the God and Country Award. He also served as a summer camp staff member at Camp Squanto in Plymouth, Mass. for seven years.

Hayes has been married to his wife Judy 15 years. Their son Thomas is a first-class scout and daughter Kelly is a cadet in the Girl Scouts.

 

Last Updated on Thursday, 24 October 2013 09:54

Hits: 496

 
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