To The Daily Sun,
The Newfound Area School District's Budget Committee unanimously voted to strongly support the proposed two-year agreement that has been ratified between the Newfound Area Teachers Association and the Newfound Area School Board.
While the Budget Committee did not negotiate the agreement between the teachers and the school board, the committee wants the public to know that this agreement provides for concessions on both sides. The new contract allows for teacher salary increases, a correction to the salary matrix to allow for equalization between and among steps, and a significant change to the current authorized leave language. The teachers also will be increasing the percentage that they will pay toward their health insurance during the second year of the contract.
The agreement will be further discussed at the school district's Annual Deliberative Session scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015. Voting on the ratified agreement will occur on Election Day, Tuesday, March 10, 2015.
Simon Barnett, Chair
Newfound Area School District Budget Committee
Last Updated on Tuesday, 09 December 2014 10:20
To The Daily Sun,
For many years the president said that he legally could not suspend deportation with an executive order. He said that the U.S. is a nation of laws. He took office and swore to uphold the laws of the U.S.
The president said he was not granting amnesty. He, however, is granting work permits. Work permits to people who illegally entered the U.S. They will be allowed to apply to jobs that Americans citizens are applying for. We have many Americans who want to work and are unemployed. Do we want them to lose the opportunity of a job because an illegal — yes, an illegal and not an undocumented person — has the opportunity to apply for the job and may work for less money?
The president said he secured the border. Yet illegals are still entering. What the president proposes is for more children to enter the U.S. illegally.
2011 — 16,00 children illegally entered
2012 — 24,000 children illegally entered
2013 — 68,000 illegally entered
Our president is telling people in other countries to come on over and you can do whatever you want.
The president said he will deport criminals. There are many criminals that are deported and come back again and again.
We need to have our borders secured now. We need the Congress to stop him. Our president has promised the American citizen that. He has not done that.
Do not fund the work-permit printing.
Harry Reid is asking the new Senate majority (the Republicans) to allow amendments to bills being proposed. Funny he didn't, and hasn't done that. He could do something now. Harry Reid could, with the Republicans, defund what the president wants to do. Harry Reid could impeach the president for not following the Constitution. Harry Reid could put bills on the floor that were passed by the House and see if they pass. Harry Reid could work with existing senators to pass a legitimate budget.
It has been said that other presidents have done this. Yes, they have. But it is more and more common with this president. He has done it many times, and not to speed up what Congress has passed, but in opposition to Congress.
Now I read that Congress will pass a budget that funds Obama's amnesty provisions. Congress can pass a law that will not fund the creation of work permits and other parts of this law. They must do this.
Executive orders were meant to do something when Congress was not in session and it was an emergency. Amnesty for illegals is not an emergency.
The president could have lowered corporate taxes and bring businesses back to the U.S. The creation of jobs (and not government jobs, but good-paying manufacturing jobs) for Americans is an emergency. Our president has his priorities that are not in line with the priorities of the American people. We must elect a president in 2016 that favors American citizens.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 09 December 2014 10:15
To The Daily Sun,
Our county commissioners and their administrator continue to view themselves as above the law and to act accordingly. Despite the clear wording of applicable state statutes and a court order directing them to adhere to the statutory mandates, they continue to ignore itemized budgetary lines and appropriation amounts.
A recent example of continued lawlessness in budgetary matters arose out of a $15,000 transfer approved by the convention Executive Committee on Oct. 27. As a result of the transfer $8,000 was added to the convention's legal services line item and $7,000 was added to the corresponding line item for commissioners/administration legal services.
On Nov. 4, the county administration wrote two checks totaling $5,746 to the law firm representing the commissioners in the lawsuit brought against them by the convention. These checks have been charged against the line item in the current budget covering legal services for the convention, despite the fact that the service paid for was representation of the commissioners in a suit brought against them by the convention for failing to honor line item appropriations of money in the budget.
Of equal, if not greater importance, the bill that was paid with the misapplied $5,746 was for legal services rendered on behalf of the commissioners in August and September. The county administration was knowingly running up legal bills exceeding the amount appropriated for such without bothering to seek Executive Committee approval for the transfer of additional funds as specifically required by statute.
Moreover, by their own admission, the county administration has incurred additional debt for legal services well in excess of the amount appropriated in the current budget for such expenses. In fact, at the most recent meeting of the Executive Committee, the administration represented that it needed an additional $28,000 to pay its legal bills. When asked how much was currently owed, the Executive Committee was told that there is currently unpaid debt for legal services of approximately $24,000.
New Hampshire RSA 24:15 I. could not be clearer: "No county commissioner, or elected or appointed county officer, shall pay, or agree to pay, or incur any liability for the payment of, any sum of money for which the county convention has made no appropriation or in excess of any appropriation so made...." The intended seriousness of this provision is underscored by RSA 24: 16 which specifically provides that violation of RSA 24: 15 "shall subject the person so violating to the provisions of RSA 661: 9, providing for removal from office."
The misapplication by the commissioners of $5,746 from the convention budget line to pay the commissioners' legal bills in the litigation with the convention is a most flagrant and indefensible violation of the convention's statutory line-item authority and the court order currently in place in the lawsuit between the convention and the commissioners. In addition, the admitted incurring of legal service debt by the commissioners in excess of the appropriated amount allocated for such without executive committee approval is another very clear violation of state law.
Questions of misconduct on budgetary matters is not limited to bills for legal services. There are also very serious questions about how the administrator and/or the commissioners have handled over $150,000 in checks that were issued to the county by Health Trust. It appears that, without any action being taken in a public meeting, the checks were returned to Health Trust by the administrator in return for credit against future 2014 health insurance invoices. The administrator has said that at least part of the money represented by the returned checks can legally be used to obtain credit against health insurance premiums owed in 2014 by the county for health insurance coverage for county employees.
Her stated justification for this position is that part of the money represented by the returned checks was excessive premium amounts paid this year for health insurance coverage. This has been shown to be untrue.
We have just completed a hotly contested election in our county. The commissioners and some of their allies in the delegation/convention made the conflict between the convention and the commissioners the centerpiece of the election. Despite efforts to demonize the convention and its leadership with allegations of pending crises caused by budget constraints and mass confusion produced by micromanagement of county affairs by the executive committee, the voters spoke loudly and clearly in favor of a change in county government.
If we are to have an open and honest county government, we need to make sure it is staffed with people who will not place themselves above the law in an effort to have their way. A path to this end is provided by New Hampshire RSA 24: 17 which provides: "The county convention may appoint a committee of its own members ... to investigate conditions pertaining to the conduct of county affairs by any county officer or any person appointed or employed by such officer, which committee shall have power to summon witnesses, examine them under oath, secure a transcript of the testimony and do other necessary acts to conduct such investigation."
Given what appears to be serious administrative deviations from the statutes and the applicable court order in the execution of the current budget, a thorough investigation seems in order. We need to know exactly what has happened with expenses related to legal services. How and when did they get so far in excess of the amount appropriated for such expenses? Was this something that should have been seen coming? If so, why was it not discussed earlier with the executive committee, before the appropriation was exceeded? What has happened with the funds represented by the Health Trust checks that were received by the county? Who made the decision to return the checks in return for a credit on future 2014 invoices? Why was the decision not discussed and voted on in public? Did anyone in the decision-making process stand to benefit from the decision that was made? The resulting answers to these and related questions, should identify anyone who has chosen to ignore the statutes and the court order regarding adherence to the statutes. If the investigation identifies any knowing violator, then the next appropriate action can and should be considered.
Last Updated on Monday, 08 December 2014 10:28
To The Daily Sun,
As the executive and program director at the Belknap Mill during the mid-1980s, I would like to offer a perspective from my own experiences some 30 years ago. I was fortunate to be there when the mill was the acknowledged center of culture in the Lakes Region.
We had an active Board of Trustees who put their actions in front of their words. People like John O'Shea, Peter Karagianis, Warren Huse, Ann Stamps, Frank DeNormandy, Ed Chertok, David Lynch, Bob and Jean Graves, Mac Harrington and so many others. From the furnace to fundraising, they were involved with all aspects of the mill. It will be a long time before I'll forget Mac arriving at the mill before the sun peered over the hills to wake up the building and make certain that all was ready for another full day of activity.
We had at least three tenants, including United Way, Belknap County Cooperative Extension, and Lakes Region Family Services, each offering a rainbow of unique events that attracted countless visitors through the doors. We were able to connect with the Morin family and then hosted a family reunion that filled the third floor with hugs, memories, and laughter. We sponsored children's programs and actively collaborated with schools and artists around the Lakes Region that brought in troops of toddlers to teens for events such as puppet shows, mask-making workshops, regional school art exhibits and concerts, and residencies with artists from other cultures. Thanks to regional artists, historians, and collectors we hosted exhibits and displays that included an impressive array of beer cans, 19th century Christmas cards, and turning the lobby into an antique pharmacy and soda fountain.
Yet, as lively and exciting as those days were, I fully realize that times have changed.
1. The Belknap Mill is no longer the sole small venue for intimate arts events and exhibits for local artists. To name just a few, we now have Pitman's Freight Room, the Beane Conference Center, the Busiel Mill and other private galleries, the beautiful new Laconia and Gilford libraries, and a number of bustling new outlets for live theater.
2. Laws have changed so that nursery schools can no longer pile children in the backs of station wagons for field trips.
3. School budgets have been slashed and regulations tightened so that schools find it challenging to collaborate in a similar manner outside their systems.
4. And because of extended pressures and expectations on families today, the pool of available volunteers is now smaller.
5. Do take a look at the number of new non-profit organizations, such as the completely impressive Multicultural Market Day celebrations, that are all now gathering at the same revenue streams for sustenance.
6. Certainly we must also acknowledge the impact of the many more entertainment options now available to us right in our own living rooms.
So, we should ask ourselves a very key question. What remains that only the Belknap Mill can offer? My thoughts? This building is a treasure that is an attractive and exquisitely unique addition to the landscape of downtown Laconia. This building is a treasure that teaches and reminds all of us of our own origins and history.
I would urge us to think creatively, and without casting unnecessary blame on others, just how this facility can be repurposed while remaining a central icon for the Lakes Region. For all the reasons we've cited The Belknap Mill can probably never operate as it once did, either as a productive textile mill or as the hub for all the arts in the Lakes Region. Yet in no way because of our own panic and shortsighted vision and thinking should we turn our backs on what could be a new life for this building.
Belknap Mill Executive and Program Director - 1984-88
Last Updated on Monday, 08 December 2014 10:24
To The Daily Sun,
It is regrettable that departing Belknap County Commissioner John H. Thomas, denied a re-election bid by Republican Party primary voters, chose not to leave office with more grace. Having lost budget authority battles with the Belknap County Committee at both the polls and in court, Thomas recently felt the need to describe nine unnamed committee members as "hateful" people.
The resort to ad hominem attack upon those with whom he disagrees on political issues reflects poorly on Thomas. It makes him appear small and a poor loser. Perhaps at this point, it is best to thank Commissioner Thomas for his public service, and and ask him to leave county governance to others with a more temperate and unpersonalized view of political adversaries.
Last Updated on Monday, 08 December 2014 10:20