Saturday, February 28, 2015

Reminder:Meet the Candidates Night Sunday March 1st 6:30pm LIons Club

Why can't they all just get along?

It would appear that the Belknap County Commissioner's are vying for the title of Most Dysfunctional County Commission (MDCC) currently held by Carroll County four years running. (Don't count us out yet for five in a row. We are still waiting for commissioner Babson to be sworn in, which he refuses to do until the county indemnifies him against legal expenses and lawsuits while acting as commissioner. Yet he continues to "act" as a commissioner. How does that work?)
Back to Belknap though. An interesting story in today's Laconia Daily Sun about the most recent troubles with their commissioners. It seems that the current chair, Richard Burchell is not playing nice with his fellow commissioners. According to commissioners David DeVoy and Hunter Taylor, the chair is running the commission, but refusing to be part of the team. They want and plan to make a motion to reorganize at the next meeting, but Burchell is saying that he won't allow it and will only leave the post at the order of a judge. In  fact, he has ordered a uniformed sherriff's' officer to be present and will clear the room if necessary. They must really want the MDCC award badly.
I don't know if there is a statutory rule that governs these matters at the county level, but it would appear from the article that there does not seem to be a clear answer.

Selectmen on the other hand have very few statutory rules and are free to make their rules of order pretty much as they want. Here in Moultonboro, we approved rules of order last April shortly after we reorganized. Our chair and vice chair serve at the pleasure of the whole board and a simple majority vote to reorganize can occur at any time. No need to go to court or spend money on lawyers and such.  Our chair Jon Tolman and vice chair, Joel Mudgett are both leaving office and we will have two new BoS members when we reorganize at our first meeting on March 19th, so there will be a new chair and vice chair as well as new committee and liason assignments.
Best of luck to all the candidates and hopefully it will be a mild day come March 10th when they stand outside holding campaign signs.

Moultonboro Planning Board February 25th, 2015

The discussion about the NHEC solar array begins at 24 minutes in. The NHEC came to the BoS a few months back about a solar array at the landfill behind the transfer station. The BoS asked for some additional information, but the co-op decided to look elsewhere.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Low Salaries Make Teacher Retention in Conway a Challenge

I happened upon this article ( scroll down)  from a few weeks ago in the Conway Daily Sun and based upon some comments I've received and the Moultonboro Teachers Union contract increases we will soon be voting on, this presents an interesting contrast. Our district actually has in place a retirement incentive program. From the ABC 2015 review of the Teachers contract: "The intent(of the incentive) was to entice the experienced higher salaried teachers to take an early retirement, allowing the district to replace the retiring teachers with less tenured and therefore less costly staff."
For comparison purposes ( as per the NH DOE) Conway ranks 145th in the state with an average teacher salary of $42, 922 based upon 158.5 FTE's.  Moultonboro ranks 48th with an average teacher salary of $58,618 based upon 59.6 FTE's.
Our student/teacher ratio is 8.3 while Conway is 11.3 ( both are excluding pre-school and kindergarten).  The problem in Conway is money. If the average teacher salary in Conway were equivalent to Moultonboro,  the increased cost at just base salary ( no benefits) by itself is $2.5 million annually. I would suspect that there is a happy medium somewhere , but the real issues are the educational outcomes. I haven't investigated if Conway's problem of teacher retention has translated into better or worse student performance, and I'm not sure how we could  measure that accurately. I do know that there is a wide disparity among school districts in many areas, not the least of which is cost per student without any NH DOE system of real metrics to substantiate spending more or less. What is optimum and what is effective? We are in the midst of a transition so the jury is still out on the new standards and testing being implemented and it may take a few years to fully evaluate the results.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

HB 680 Seeks New Version of Donor Towns

An explanatory letter from The Coalition Communities follows below.
According to the analysis of the bill contained in the bills text "This bill establishes the rate of the statewide education tax at $8 per 1,000 of the value of taxable property and transfers the authority to collect the education property tax from the municipalities to the department of revenue administration. This bill establishes a homestead exemption from the education property tax for the first $250,000 of assessed value of homestead property. The bill also requires an annual transfer of $150,000,000 from the education trust fund to the general fund"
The bill is sponsored by Rep. Gillman Shattuck (d) Hillsborough.
It is clear that this bill is targeting property rich municipalities, despite the homestead exemption.
As the letter suggests, a quick email to the members of the House Ways and Means Committee before March 4th will help assure that this bill is killed. The bill is scheduled to come out of committee on March 5th.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Teachers CBA Contract Agreement Cost Increase On the School District Warrant

The ABC provides a thorough review of the contract agreement which can be found here on the Town website.
The article we will be voting on  is Article 1 below. If defeated, Article 2 asks for approval to hold a special meeting to address Article 1 cost items only.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Message from Chris Shipp

While I read this blog frequently, it is very rarely that I post, but something happened in my life recently, that I feel I need to share.  As many of you know, my dad passed away on the 13th of February after an 18-month battle with Pancreatic Cancer.  He was 72.  My dad was a huge part of my family’s life and the loss of him has been devastating to all of us, especially my children.  Until this point in my life, the loss of my father is the most difficult challenge I have ever had to face.  When I got home this past Monday, after an emotionally grueling weekend of calling hours and memorial services, my driveway was plowed, and my mailbox was stuffed with letters of condolence.  Many of the cards were from close friends, which I understood.  Numerous cards however, were a surprise to me.  Many of the cards were from people who know me only through my role as Selectman.  Several were from people who frequently share an opinion that is “politically” different than mine.  I have to say that those meant the most.  I could never articulate, how much it meant to me, that people who may disagree with my political choices, cared about me and my family enough to share their thoughts of sympathy.  It made me keenly aware that although we may all have different opinions about certain issues, we are all doing what we think is best for our town.  I love Moultonborough, and the people in it; all the people.  On behalf of my entire family, I would like to thank the entire community for the love and support we have received over the last 18 months, especially the last two weeks.  Your kindness is deeply appreciated and will never be forgotten.  
Most sincerely, respectfully, and humbly.  Chris Shipp

UNH Feasibility Study February 23rd 2015

Saturday, February 21, 2015

How the ABC Came to Be

( Note: My personal opinion is the ABC does a very good job for the town. They have taken some very tough positions particularly in regard to the schools over the years and took quite a bit of heat for it. They have also caused many positive changes since their inception . My reason for suggesting  a response to their 2015 Town Budget report was to enlighten voters as to what the BoS has done to date and what it plans to do in response to the ABC suggestions. Some we agreed with and some we didn't. History is critical in order to gain proper perspective of why things evolved as they did.)

It all started with a petitioned warrant article at 2007 Town Meeting.
The following is from the 2007 Town Meeting minutes:
 To see if the Town shall establish an elected municipal budget committee in accordance with NH  RSA – Title 32, Chapter 3. The budget committee shall consist of five (5) members elected at-large, one  (1) member of the governing body of the municipality and one (1) member of the school board. If adopted,  the Moderator shall appoint members to serve until the next annual meeting, as provided in RSA 669:17.  (The vote on this Article shall be by paper ballot; the Polls shall remain open and ballots accepted for at  least one hour.) 
(By Petition) 
A motion was made by Chris Shipp and seconded by Richard Plaisted. After discussion a motion was made by Richard Buckler and seconded by Kathy Erving to amend  the article to read: 
 To see if the moderator will appoint 5 registered voters to a committee to study the effects of a  municipal budget committee on the Town of Moultonborough. The committee shall report to the Board of  Selectmen by November 1, 2007. The selectmen shall make the report public and available to all residents. The amendment was voted in the affirmative by a hand vote. 
 Yes 200 No 126  The article as amended was voted on in the affirmative by a majority voice vote. 

A committee was indeed appointed and the following was published in the Meredith News in January  2008:

by Sarah Schmidt
Staff Reporter

January 10, 2008
MOULTONBORO — The Board of Selectmen voted to create an Advisory Budget Committee to serve until Town Meeting of 2009, anticipating the possibility that the town could vote for an elected committee this March.

The motion, however, was greeted with skepticism from several residents in attendance at the meeting, who wondered aloud if the approval of the Advisory Budget Committee by both boards made the budget committee a "done deal." Board of Selectmen Chair Karel Crawford asserted that the board had not yet discussed the matter and that she had no idea what the other selectmen thought of the idea.

"There's a certain segment of the population that feels you're out to get them," said Selectman Ed Charest. "We're not, we're very open. It's time to get away from the 'gotcha' attitude."

Amid fervent questioning from residents in attendance, the board voted to create the committee in order to "set in place the infrastructure" for such a committee. If residents vote in favor of a different board wherein members are elected, the advisory board appointed to work during the next fiscal year would have to run for election in 2009. This action follows the unanimous vote of the School Board last month to establish an Advisory Budget Committee. The hearing last week was attended jointly by the Board of Selectmen and the School Board.

Trying to clarify the history of how the School Board voted on an advisory budget committee, Selectman Betsey Patten gave a brief history of the Budget Study Committee's inception and work in the town. The idea, Patten said, sprang from the meeting of an ad hoc committee, which suggested the advisory committee as a "proactive" way to deal with teaching a new committee the ropes of determining the budget.

"So they said let's do an advisory committee to begin to understand what we do," said Patten. "We'll begin to give people the ability to understand what we do in town. Personally, I think running into it is a huge step. It changes our way of governing ourselves. Let's try this and see if it works well."

Deciding on a five-member board with a representative each from the Selectmen and School Boards, the board voted that the remaining three openings would be determined by the School, Selectmen, and Library Trustee Boards. Resident Jean Beadle had already completed and submitted a resume and letter of interest to the board, hoping to be appointed to the position.

Resident Rick Heath disagreed with this course of action, and told the board that he believed this motion bypassed the election system by setting up a board before the town had decided.

"This is suggestive of an ongoing appointment, bypassing the election system," said Heath. "Go to the voters. The true democratic process is that people vote for people, and the majority wins."

School Board member Bill Blackadar countered this, telling Heath that any resident in town could submit a petitioned warrant article to change the motion, making the board elected, increasing the number of members, or whatever they desired.

"Why do you feel the legislative process has been circumvented by creating this committee?" Blackadar asked. "You can change it. All you need to do is bring in a warrant article. They're just being proactive with the report."

Patten pointed out that if the town waited for the voters to decide on an elected board, the board wouldn't be elected until 2009, and would first begin work on the budget for 2010. She said that the board was attempting to be proactive, to determine how the process of working with a budget committee would run while still allowing people to run for election in 2009 to replace the appointed members.

Heath inquired about a letter written by the School Board in opposition to the formation of a budget committee. Blackadar responded that it was a "life lesson" to try not to oppose a committee's recommendation, indicating the recommendation of the Budget Study Committee. Instead of voting on a budget committee last year, voters amended a petitioned warrant article to ask for a study committee to look into how a budget committee would affect Moultonboro. The Board of Selectmen discussed their feelings on the Advisory Budget Committee, some admitting reservations about it but deciding to stand with their other selectmen. Selectmen Joel Mudgett, James Gray, and Patten spoke in favor of forming the committee as a way to ease the burden of the budget process on selectmen and town officials, a task made tougher this year without a town administrator. Charest voted in favor of the committee but with "reservations."

"If I had my druthers, I would say no," said Crawford. "But if the other members of the board think it's a good thing, then I'll vote with them."

The vote was unanimous.The town will be accepting more applications for appointments to the Advisory Budget Committee, which will begin on April 1.

Lastly is this editorial from July 2008 also in the Meredith News:

The Meredith News   July 3rd, 2008
Anyone who prepares a budget knows that it’s not an easy process, especially as wants have to give way to needs nowadays, and even needs have to be prioritized. Multiply that by a hefty number, and with a far more needs to consider, and you’ve got any town budget. It’s a grueling process for any town, but was especially true for Moultonboro last year. Without a town administrator, the selectmen took on multiple duties and budget sessions in order to see the budget to its presentation this year. It’s why we’re happy to see Moultonboro establishing an advisory budget committee in town. Extra pairs of hands and eyes are always useful when it comes to financial matters, and especially so in a time when hard decisions may have to be made. The more opinions that can be voiced, the more complete picture the selectmen and the school board will have to work with in the next budget season. As to whether this becomes an annual occurrence, we hope everyone looks at the committee with an open mind. Fears have been expressed to us in the past that if Moultonboro gets a budget committee, the budget process will become rancorous and would divide the community. It’s true that money can be a divisive issue – most married couples we know will admit to an argument or two (or three). Come Town Meeting, though, it’s in the hands of Moultonboro residents to make the decision – not just about the budget, but about the committee itself. If residents like the input of the advisory budget committee this year, they may very well make the committee an elected one…or not. Residents might like the advisory committee just the way it is. There is the third possibility that residents just find the whole committee unnecessary, and don’t wish to continue with it at all. With or without such a committee, there will always be a debate over where the funding goes – just look at the debate over the community/senior center earlier this year. We’d like to say that a budget committee, advisory or elected, is a forward-thinking step for the town, and we support its institution.We’d encourage residents to go out and attend these meetings, so that they know where the funding is going, and the reasons that it’s going there.