Future of Belmont football to be discussed at special meeting

BELMONT — Friends of Belmont Football have called for a special and mandatory meeting for all student athletes and parents who are interested in high school football in Belmont this upcoming season and beyond. This meeting is critical to the survival of the program for current and future Belmont High School football players.

The meeting is Monday, March 19 at 6:30 p.m. on the bottom floor at the Corner Meeting House in Belmont next to the Police Department.

Belmont has had a cooperative football team with Gilford High School and this fall will be the fifth season. FOBF has been the sole organization and source for raising funds for this program. The Shaker Regional School District contributes no funds to this football program.

John Woods, board member of the organization, said that in order to ensure sustainability of this football program, all high school players and their parents must attend. It is important that players at the 7th and 8th grade level, and their parents, attend too as this age group will become the future of the program.

Laconia’s Colonial Theatre project gets boost

Colonial Slattery

Justin Slattery, executive director of the Belknap Economic Development Council, said that, with the financing picture finally taking shape, restoration work on the Colonial Theatre will begin “in the coming months.” (Adam Drapcho/Laconia Daily Sun)

Tax credits assist in moving project forward just in time for building season


LACONIA — After a year of delays, financing for the $17 million refurbishment of the 103-year-old Colonial Theatre finally appears to be coming together.

The last piece of the funding puzzle involves federal tax credits.

The U.S. Treasury Department awarded $3.5 billion in New Market tax credits nationwide last month, allowing the Belknap Economic Development Council to push forward, Justin Slattery, the council's executive director, said Thursday.

“Belknap EDC is currently finalizing financing for the project including New Market tax credits with our funding partners and is looking forward to moving to the project’s construction phase,” he said Thursday.

Slattery didn't have an exact date for closing on financing or starting on construction.

Mayor Ed Engler said he is happy things are finally moving.

“I'm thrilled,” he said. “We're a year behind schedule. This is one of those things, where there were so many parts to that financing package, but this is great news, construction can begin the day after closing.”

Once work begins, it will take another year before the aging theater can be turned into a modern entertainment venue that will retain the ornate touches that give it character. The hope is that the project will attract more people, business and investment in a downtown area that needs help.

The economic development council is using a mix of state, federal, city and donor funds to bring the theater back to life.

The New Market tax credits are to account for $5.7 million of that funding. Community development entities sell the credits to investors to raise capital for projects in low-income rural communities.

The Colonial Theatre project, part of an effort to revitalize the downtown core, is also to include 14 market-rate apartments and four retail spaces. It was delayed after early design projections undershot the total cost of the intricate refurbishment.

The complicated nature of the financing also caused delays.

In addition to the New Market Tax Credits, financing will include $2.4 million in historic tax credits, a $4.2 million loan from the city and $1.5 million in donations.

Colonial Foyer

The entrance to the Colonial Theatre still has the wallpaper and woodwork of an earlier era of American theaters. (Adam Drapcho/Laconia Daily Sun)

Colonial Theater

The Colonial Theatre awaits the next phase of renovation. (Adam Drapcho/Laconia Daily Sun)

Rejection of Newfound school budget sets district up for lawsuit


BRISTOL — By a mere four votes, residents of the Newfound Area School District rejected the proposed budget on Tuesday, which means the default budget, which is $277,762 less, will take effect.
It also sets the school district up for a lawsuit because of disagreement over capital expenditures included in the default budget.
Voters in Danbury, Hebron, and New Hampton supported the $23,813,595 budget, but tallies in Alexandria, Bridgewater, Bristol, and Groton showed opposition. The total count was 761 in favor and 765 opposed, resulting in a default budget of $23,535,833.
Under the statute governing official ballot towns, there is an option to hold a special school district meeting to address the budget in a situation like this, but the option has rarely, if ever, been used. Typically, the default budget is allowed to take effect.
School Board Chairman Jeff Levesque said the board will be deciding what approach to take at its next meeting, on March 26.
The default budget is intended to keep municipalities and school districts operational by continuing the spending included in the last approved budget, with adjustments for “debt service, contracts, and other obligations previously incurred or mandated by law, and reduced by one-time expenditures contained in the operating budget.”
School officials argue that the $800,000 that voters approved last year to replace the high school roof is not a one-time expenditure but, instead, the first year’s spending in a capital improvement plan extending 10 years into the future.
The $712,300 in new capital expenditures that they included in their calculation of the default budget is thus justified, they say.
Superintendent Stacy Buckley said the school district attorney agreed, saying that the definition of one-time expenditures is “appropriations not likely to recur in the succeeding budget, as determined by the governing body....”
Bristol resident Archie Auger, who had made the motion to add the $800,000 last year, maintains it was a one-time appropriation and, therefore, should not be included in the default budget.
He pointed out that the capital improvement plan had not even been approved by the School Board at the time of last year’s district meeting, and voters have never been asked to approve the plan.
Even with a capital improvement plan in place, each year’s projects must go before the voters to appropriate the money, unless voters agree to fund a particular project over a period of time, in which case it becomes a contractual obligation.
Levesque had refused to schedule a special meeting to discuss Auger’s concern in time to adjust the default budget if necessary before Tuesday’s vote, prompting residents and selectmen of the member towns to threaten a lawsuit against the school district.
When the School Board met on Monday, it tabled a discussion on the default budget because Auger was out of town and could not attend the meeting.
Bristol resident Paul Simard, one of those opposing the way the default budget was calculated, said he is waiting to speak with Auger before committing to a lawsuit, but he said, “I’ve got my checkbook ready!”

Legislative action
Newfound's default budget is not the first one to be questioned. Several towns and school districts have faced criticism for the way they calculate the default budget, and Hillsborough County Superior Court recently ruled that the $60,000 that Weare officials had placed in that town’s default budget had to be removed because Weare voters had never approved the spending.The New Hampshire Legislature is looking to tighten up the law to avoid that kind of dispute.
House Bill 1307 would amend the definition of a default budget to stipulate that money taken out of a proposed operating budget also would be removed from the default budget.
HB 1396 would allow the governing body to increase the default budget by qualifying capital expenditures, providing it is certified by a third party as being “a non-deferrable issue of safety, code compliance, or protection against property loss.”
HB 1652 would require a town or school district to provide greater detail about how the default budget was calculated, including the amounts excluded as being one-time expenditures from the previous year. It would remove a provision of the current law that allows a community to hold a special meeting to revise a budget.
The state Senate also has a bill, SB 342, that would require written documentation of the specific cost items that constitute an increase or decrease in the default budget.

Newfound elections
Newfound Area School District voters elected Heidi Milbrand in a three-way race for Bristol’s representative to the School Board, with current School Board member John Larson receiving 375 votes and Erin Camire receiving 264 votes.
In uncontested races, Sharon Klapyk was re-elected as Danbury’s representative with 1,025 votes, and Levesque was re-elected as Groton’s representative with 943 votes. Jason Roberts received 108 write-in votes for Hebron’s representative.
Ruby Hill received 1,087 votes for Danbury representative to the School District Budget Committee and Don Franklin received 960 votes as Hebron’s representative. No one ran to represent Groton.
Edward “Ned” Gordon was elected moderator with 1,247 votes.
On other ballot questions, voters agreed, 1,096-400, to place $1 into the expendable trust fund for building maintenance and by 1,156-332 to allow the School Board to convey land and buildings on the Hebron Common to the town of Hebron.