Mayor: More school cuts inevitable

Councilor suggests closing one of three elementary schools may be necessary

LACONIA — The focus of city and school leaders when they meet Friday will be finding a way to fund salary hikes for teachers, but even if they accomplish that, the Laconia School District is likely to face financial problems for years to come.

The council on Monday night agreed to postpone making a final decision on whether to fund a proposed bargaining agreement between the School District and the teachers’ union.

The district is seeking a guaranteed minimum of $850,000 per year in property tax cap space to fund the five-year contract, which would bring teacher compensation to a level equal to or slightly above most other area school systems. Under the tax cap formula that is written into the City Charter their 2017-2018 increase is limited to $508,000.

The problem is that this revenue, if used mainly for teacher pay hikes, would not be available to cover other increasing expenses, including cost of heating, health insurance and the retirement program, Mayor Ed Engler said at the City Council meeting.
"If you take a $500,000 hit, in two years on the retirement fund you're screwed again," he said during School Board member Mike Persson's presentation. "I'm just saying that for anybody in this room who thinks this is a cure-all to school budget issues, it's not."
Persson acknowledged that cuts in the coming years are likely to be necessary, even if the district gets the additional revenue it is seeking.
"We're going to need to look at making cuts each and every year moving forward," he said. "That's the reality."
The district may be forced to consider closing one of its three elementary schools, Councilor Brenda Baer said Wednesday.
"I kind of think that might be a do-able process," she said. "Divide up one of the schools, whichever has less students and less room, and send the students to the two schools that could probably absorb them."
There are 1,962 students in the high school, the middle school and the elementary schools, down from 2,288 a decade ago, Baer said. 
Stiff opposition would be expected from the community surrounding whatever school was slated for closure.
Such a closure would also boost class size. Class sizes in grades 2 through 5 are now about 20, five under the maximum allowed by the state.
Persson said it would be difficult to close one elementary school and stay within state class size requirements.
Some council members, School Board members and staff are to hold meetings at 3 p.m. in the council chambers Friday and June 2 to pursue ways to fund the teacher contract. The council will then meet on June 5 to consider the contract again.
A complication is the city's property tax cap.
Under the cap, a total of $508,000 in additional money could be applied to pay raises and other expenses in the School District in the first year of the contract.
A presentation to the School Board before it approved the contract indicated the agreement was contingent on a 2017-2018 tax cap override sufficient to fund a budget increase of at least $850,000.
It also called on the City Council to place a measure on the November ballot that would allow voters to place a floor on the tax cap for the next five years that would allow for district budget increases of at least $850,000 yearly.
City Council members have expressed opposition to altering the tax cap.

Four Bristol candidates jump into Grafton County District 9 race


BRISTOL — Former Republican state representatives Burt Williams and Paul Simard have filed for the Grafton County District 9 House seat vacated by Jeffrey Shackett (R-Bridgewater), and former Republican gubernatorial candidate Andrew Hemingway intends to file as an independent, according to Bristol Town Clerk Raymah Simpson.

Bristol Democrat Joshua Adjutant will be running as a write-in candidate after being denied the opportunity to file in Bridgewater because he is not a resident, and in Bristol because he had not registered as a voter there, according to Simpson. Adjutant has filed now, but will have to wait for the Supervisors of the Checklist to certify his residency, which will occur too late for the current filing period.

The governor and Executive Council last week approved a request by the town of Ashland to hold a special election, setting in motion a statutory process that allows candidates to file this week for a primary on July 18, with the general election set for Sept. 5. Candidates could file with their respective town clerks on Monday and Tuesday, or with the Secretary of State’s Office in Concord between Monday and the end of the day this Friday.

The seat opened up in February when Shackett, who had been sworn in for a new term just 30 days earlier, abruptly resigned, citing work commitments. The five towns of the district — Alexandria, Ashland, Bridgewater, Bristol and Grafton — initially declined to file for a special election, due to the expense and the fact that, by the time a new representative could take office, the most important business of this legislative session — the budget — will have been dealt with. They also took into account the fact that they still have representation from Robert Hull of Grafton.

Ashland selectmen reconsidered their decision and decided to call for the special election, after all. Their failure to let the other towns know irked Bristol selectmen when they learned an election had been scheduled. The statute governing special elections requires a request by only a single town to send it on to the governor and council for action.

The town clerks in other District 9 towns were not available for information on any other candidate filings, but Bridgewater’s Vincent Paul Migliore, who serves on the Newfound Area School Board, confirmed that he intended to file as a Republican candidate at the Secretary of State’s Office on Wednesday.


Laconia Police Log May 3-17, 2017

Laconia police responded to 878 calls from May 3 through Wednesday, including two for assault, six for drugs cases and 15 thefts.
A total of 21 people were arrested.
Arrested on May 3 was Cody Wentzel, 24, of 41 Elm St., Apartment 3, on a warrant.
Arrested on May 4 was Luis Antonio Gonzales, 22, of 21 West St., Concord, on a charge of operating without a valid license.
Arrested on May 5 were Kenneth R. Kelly, 36, of 322 South Main St., Apartment B, on bench warrants for driving after revocation, disobeying an officer and controlled drug act; Leonard M. Constant, 24, of 27 Morrison Road, Tilton, on bench warrants for non-payment of fines and driving after revocation.
Arrested on May 7 were Stacy L. Bonan, 33, of 129 Franklin St., for her conduct after an accident; Kyle J. McManus, 20, a transient, on a bench warrant for criminal mischief; Stephanie M. Hough, 34, a transient, on criminal trespass.
Arrested on May 8 were Bryon Thomas Hilliard, 25, a transient, on a charge of domestic violence (simple assault); Aaron L. Rubbo, 29, of 296 Messer St., Apartment 1, on charges of domestic violence, assault.
Arrested on May 11, were Carson C. Woodward, 18, of 81 Pine St., Apartment 2, on a warrant; Travis Patten, 25, of 2 Andrews Road, Tilton, on charges of operating without a valid license, possession of narcotic drugs and on a bench warrant for simple assault; Andrew D. Nagel, 25, of 440 State Route 140, Gilmanton, on a charge of possession of controlled drugs.
Arrested on May 12 was Tyler P. Young, 26, a transient on a bench warrant for violation of probation and possession of a controlled narcotic drug.
Arrested on Saturday were James C. Saint John, 29, of 13 Beaman St., on a charge of criminal trespass; Charles M. McCarthy, a transient, on a charge of driving after suspension; William Eugene Fort II, 34, of 33 Howard St., on a charge of driving after revocation or suspension due to DWI; Mamie Murray, 19, of 296 Ossipee, Moultonboro, on a charge of possession of controlled drugs; Jason E. Clairmont, 39, of 104 New Salem St., on a bench warrant.
Arrested on Sunday was Casey R. Brown, 25, a transient, on a warrant.

Arrested on Monday was Eric T. Dion, 26, on a charge of driving after revocation.
Arrested on Wednesday was Michael D. Lima, 46, of 16 Kimball Road, Apartment 36, Gilford, on charges of driving after revocation or suspension due to DWI.