"Real liberty is neither found in despotism or the extremes of democracy, but in moderate governments.
Alexander Hamilton

Friday, November 17, 2017

Carroll County Commissioners and Delegation Still at Odds Over Affordable Assisted Living for the Elderly Study

Earlier this year, a Carroll County Delegation subcommittee was formed to study the question of assisted living options for the elderly in Carroll County. A Delegation subcommittee was formed to study the question and bring it back to the full delegation with a recommendation. The Committee was chaired by Rep. Bill Nelson (r) and members were: Rep. Avellani (r), Rep. Butler (d), Rep. Dr. William Marsh (r) and Rep. Cordelli (r).The subcommittee voted 4 in favor and 1 opposed  (Cordelli) to recommending a feasibility study, funded by $10,000 already in the nursing home budget.

At the September 25th Delegation meeting, it was clear that backroom politics was in play as the Delegation tabled the discussion on the subcommittee recommendation. No further discussion was allowed. 

On October 4th the Carroll County Commissioner's voted unanimously to fund the feasibility study as a capital expense that they believed would not require Delegation approval. NH law requires that budget line item transfers over $1,000 must be approved by the Delegation Executive committee. 

On November 1st, the Carroll County Commissioners voted to put out a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for an elder service feasibility study for Carroll County. Here is the link to the RFQ on the county website. After RFQ's are reviewed, it is the Commissioner's intent to negotiate a contract with the top-ranked firm.

At the November 6th Delegation meeting, Rep. William Marsh (r) District 08. made a motion to " remove from the table,  a discussion of the recommendations of the subcommittee to move forward with funding a feasibility study. The motion was defeated by a 7-4 vote. 

In this article in the Conway Daily Sun reporting on the November 6th Delegation meeting, it is clear that there is a knowledge gap about what the county feasibility study would accomplish and why it is critical for Carroll County. Delaying discussion until the 2018 budget cycle where the study may or may not be funded is not in the best interests of Carroll County's growing elderly population. 

Rep. Cordelli felt that a study committee in Concord may be looking at the some of the same issues as feasibility study. Rep. Marsh corrected him:" What we have been talking about addressing with this study is patients who are not yet at the nursing home level of care and patients who are not on Medicaid, that is a different subject." 

I'm not quite clear on the reluctance of some on the Delegation to even discuss this issue that is one of the most critical issues Carroll County needs to address in the very near future: we are getting older and we will need affordable living options. The issue is not about nursing home beds. It is about seniors who want to remain as independent as possible, but need some support. 
This is a local issue and we can not count on ideological politicians in Concord to solve them. We elect the Commissioners to run the county and I applaud them and the members of the Delegation who put citizens ahead of politics. 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

"Joining Forces" Are We Ready For A Conversation on Regionalization?

"Joining Forces" is a very interesting and thought-provoking story in yesterday's Laconia Daily Sun. Are Moultonboro and our neighboring towns ready to start discussing " joining forces"? The framework for the discussion is already in place with the formation of the ad hoc meetings of BoS members from surrounding towns. The first " proof of concept" has resulted in very significant cost savings by pooling purchasing of electricity.
This is not just about cost saving, but rather cost sharing to improve services. Four towns, Moultonboro, Center Harbor, Sandwich and Meredith all exist within about a 10 mile stretch. Think of the possibilities. Do we really need four of everything? Maybe throw in Tuftonboro and Tamworth and the benefits to the region could be substantial.
This is not incremental change. It would require a total paradigm shift perhaps unlike any seen before in NH. Are we ready? We won't know unless someone starts the conversation.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

How to Contact Your Legislators

I received a number of requests about who to contact regarding the post yesterday on the school voucher bill, SB193.

Here in Carroll County District 04 you can contact our three NH House Reps.:

Glen Cordelli  glenn.cordelli@leg.state.nh.us   who is the prime sponsor.
Karel Crawford (karel.crawford@leg.state.nh.us
William Marsh (William.Marsh@leg.state.nh.us)

Our State Senator is Jeb Bradley (jeb.bradley@leg.state.nh.us)

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Two Sides of School Voucher Bill SB193

(NH House Education Committee today recommended on a razor-thin 10-9 vote to recommend SB 193 as " ought to pass" when it comes to the full house in January. Following are two opposing views of the bill, one pro, and one con. It was amended heavily today in committee to get a majority approval, but it is deeply flawed and will likely see many other changes. Much more to follow on this topic.)

Americans for Prosperity Applauds House Education Vote to Offer Students and Families Greater Education Freedom

NOV 14, 2017 BY AFP
CONCORD – Americans for Prosperity-New Hampshire (AFP-NH) applauded the House Education Committee for favorably recommending Senate Bill 193, legislation to enable students and families to utilize Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) when the local public school is not the best option for the student.  The state would fund these accounts with 95% of what the state would have paid had the student stayed in their public school.  The remaining 5% will be used to ensure that the funds are utilized on bona fide educational expenses and that the child receives an effective education, coordinated by a non-profit scholarship agency.
“Education Saving Accounts help to offer families better options for students when the local public school is not the best choice,” said Greg Moore, AFP-NH State Director.  “Public schools often do a good job for many students, but not every student will thrive in that environment.  While high income families already have the ability to pick a better choice for their children, ESAs help to close that gap for lower income and working-class families.  This legislation helps to ensure that every child in New Hampshire gets an opportunity to get a great education and be successful.”

For the Monitor
Tuesday, November 14, 2017
A deeply divided House Education Committee voted, 10 to 9, Tuesday to send Senate Bill 193, the voucher bill, to the floor with an Ought to Pass recommendation, but not without much drama and amending. It was so hastily drafted and redrafted that House Education Committee Chair Rick Ladd, a Haverhill Republican, acknowledged that it would need to be fixed in the future.
The bill will go to the full House and the House Finance Committee in the next legislative session.
SB 193 would offer parents up to $5,100 (or even more) as an inducement to move their children out of neighborhood schools into homeschooling or private schools, including religious schools.
It is a new voucher program written by and for a national organization, the Children’s Scholarship Fund, because the New Hampshire business community did not support the 2012 voucher program by using the tax credits the program offers. The new bill doesn’t require that kind of public support. It provides for much larger vouchers and increases the pool of potential voucher recipients. The funding comes out of the General Fund and goes to the student instead of the school district. And there would be no cap on the financial impact to the state.
As big a move as this is away from public schools, the frenzied bill drafting has resulted in many anomalies. As one example among many, a provision buried in the bill would make a whole new kind of “non-school school” viable. The BigFish Learning Community, in Dover, is one of these. BigFish is not actually a school but homeschoolers could use a voucher of as much as $5,181 per year to pay part of the $9,000 tuition.

SB 193 is the most visible proposal, but it is just the tip of the school choice iceberg.Most Democrats are opposed to SB 193 and some Republicans are either opposed or have real concerns. The bill provides no workable way to assure that the state is meeting its constitutional obligation to provide those children an adequate education.
Replacing neighborhood schools with private and home schools has long been a theme of public school debate. Critics have asserted that our teachersacademic standards, test scores, remediation ratesand overall policy direction are all bad. But the fact that our governor and education commissioner now say that too has given the debate new force.
The vision emerging at the Department of Education and in the Legislature is a bigger change than it might appear at first. The basic proposition is that we should replace our system of neighborhood schools with a marketplace of private choice in which each family makes its own decisions about its own children, funded by state and local tax revenue.
Our district schools would become just one of the choices in a new education system under which parents would essentially create their own individual school systems a la carte from any vendor – an online software company, a voucher-funded private school or home school, a charter school or a traditional district school.
This notion of the future surfaces all through the discussion of our schools. You see it in local school boards and in a new level of contentiousness at the State Board of Education. You get unexpected proposals from the New Hampshire Department of Education. Just the other day the department posted a position announcement for a new, legislatively authorized “Charter School Program Officer” but turned it into a school choice lobbyist. This will probably get rolled back but demonstrates the department’s priorities.
But the most ambitious proposals are coming from the Legislature. There are some 14 school choice bills pending for the 2018 legislative session.
Probably the most damaging will be House Education Chair Rick Ladd’s proposal to reopen the manifest educational hardship statute governing the process for reassigning a student to another school if the family feels that continued attendance at the current school presents a hardship for the student. The bill text is not yet available but will surely include wide-ranging school choice options such as the Department of Education has proposed to the state board in recent months (unsuccessfully).
We can anticipate proposals that would obligate a school board to reassign to another school, including a private school, most any student whose parents ask for a reassignment. And, since the sending school district must pay the full tuition negotiated with the receiving school, funding would come primarily from local property tax revenue, making a revised manifest educational hardship statute a backdoor to universal school choice. The result would be fiscal and school management chaos.
The new vision is nothing less than a radical overhaul of New Hampshire public education. Advancing New Hampshire Public Education (ANHPE.org) will provide all the background distilled it down to where everyone – parents, school board members, educators and students – can get into the discussion.

Monday, November 13, 2017

NH Committee to Study Demographics Final Report Released: No surprise, We are Getting Older

HB 219, Signed by the Governor this past June, established a demographic study committee whose "purpose of which shall be to recommend administrative and legislative action regarding New Hampshire's demographic future and the relationship between that future and public sector policies and operations." The committee released its findings on November 1st. The full report can be found here.
The results were fairly predictable: NH continues to get older. "The Committee determined that if no demographic changes were made, over the next 20 years, New Hampshire’s demographic profile would see the over 65 population nearly double and a decrease in nearly all working age groups."

Nothing in the report is surprising, but the committee did recognize that there is a need for a state demographer to monitor population trends and make predictions for the future.
In addition, the committee recommends that each state agency make budget projections 10 years out to account for "demographically induced changes."
Lastly, they recommended "the establishment of a standing commission to work with the State Demographer to develop long-term net migration goals for New Hampshire, review and recommend programs and legislation designed to meet the net migration goals, and monitor the success of these programs."
A list of 11 initiatives was also offered by the committee as a guide for the commission to study.
The long and short of it is that we need to prepare for the new normal: an older demographic and less working-age residents.
Some of the preparation should include looking at increasing affordable housing for seniors, dramatically increased independent and assisted living uni, s particularly in Carroll County, increase accessibility to healthcare and look at ways to attract and keep the younger working age demographic. Tall orders to be sure. As the saying goes, if it were easy, someone would have already done it.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Still No Decision on Town Owned Taylor Property Building

Last Thursday, the future of the Taylor property building was again discussed by the BoS. No decisions were made, but I sensed some impatience from the board as they await a report from the Heritage Commission on possibilities for the structures future use and grant money available.
The BoS had set a deadline of  60-90 days for a report back to them way back on April 27th.

Closely related to this is a  $250,000 capital funding for a community evaluation and use study proposed by the town ( not yet approved by the BoS) for the entire property, which could include the buildings located on it.

I can't say I would agree to spending $250,000,  but I do agree that a full property study would be very useful to bring the community to a consensus and hopefully be the impetus to further development in the village.

When you walk or drive past other similar properties in the village, such as the Bank of NH property and Ledgewood farms building, there is a sense of the correct size and placement of the Taylor building that just looks like it belongs there. It also looks pretty beat up and run down and it will take a lot more than just paint to fix it up even just cosmetically.

The question is really a simple one: keep the building or tear it down. At this point, the building is going to have the roof repaired and winter is fast approaching. I don't think you can make a decision to tear the building down without a compelling reason. You also can't decide to keep the building without a plan for it. A decision needs to made.

So to the Heritage Commission, it would be in your best interests to get the recommendations on the use of the building to the BoS ASAP.

Friday, November 10, 2017

In Honor of Veterans Day

 Please click here to sign the card

               This Thanksgiving, thousands of our brave military men and women are serving far from home to keep us safe. Let’s make sure they know how much we appreciate their service and sacrifice. Sign the thank-you card today.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Moultonboro Tax Rate Drops by Almost 6%

The unofficial tax rate as set by NH Department of Revenue Administration has been set at $8.22 per thousand of assessed property valuation. That is approximately 6% lower than 2016 which was $8.74.

The breakdown is as follows:
2017 2016
Town  $ 2.46  $  2.78
County   $ 1.35  $  1.43
Local Education  $ 2.12  $  2.26

*State Education Tax
$ 2.29  $  2.28
Total Rate:  $ 8.22  $  8.74

(*A state education property tax rate of total equalized valuation is assessed on all New Hampshire property owners. The tax is assessed and collected by local municipalities)

At the beginning of the year, the general fund balance stood at $6,744,894. At 2017 Town meeting, voters approved spending $1,244,000 of that fund balance The current fund balance is now a very healthy $5,500,694 or 19.26% of total expenditures. That is still 7.1% above the 12.5% target ceiling set by the BoS a few years ago. Per Town Administrator Walter Johnson, he will recommend using some of the fund balance for long-term capital projects rather than use it to further reduce the tax rate. 
During the discussion, it was noted that the school expenditures were significantly lower than the prior year. Also, earlier this year, the school paid off a long-term bond saving $750,000 per year. 

Thank you to the Town, County and School District!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

It's Back! Town Budget Season Underway

As we inch towards 2018 Town Meeting, budget preparation is well underway. Town departments have by now completed their proposed budgets and the CIPC has already vetted capital requests, so it is on to the BoS for a comprehensive review and finalization for what will eventually become the 2018 town budget.
The BoS has three budget review sessions scheduled: November 29th, December 6th and December 13th all starting at 08:30am.
I know from experience that few members of the public attend these meetings, but they are open to the public and worth your while to hear first hand how the new budget is taking shape.

Monday, November 6, 2017

“The idea that’s it’s thrifty to move and save a building, (that) people will want to get as much use out of it as possible – that’s a popular, romantic notion, but it doesn’t always hold up.”

Monitor staff
Monday, November 06, 2017

  • Few things seem more suited to Yankee frugality than reusing old buildings you already own, but as communities try to balance historic preservation and keeping down costs, some are finding that it’s easier said than done.
“I think, sometimes, certain attitudes prevail that preservation is expensive and not worth it,” said Andrew Cushing of the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance, a group that helps communities save old buildings and places. “The idea that’s it’s thrifty to move and save a building, (that) people will want to get as much use out of it as possible – that’s a popular, romantic notion, but it doesn’t always hold up.”
Consider Belmont, which was a model for historic preservation in the way it stepped up and saved its empty downtown mill after a disastrous fire in 1992. In recent years, town residents have turned down several proposals to build, move or preserve some town-owned buildings in the historic downtown due to questions of cost and suitability.
Now the town is in the midst of a sweeping examination of five buildings within the village district – the library, town hall, police station, mill and a former bank/post office – in hopes that efficiency and history can go together.
“At the last deliberative session we decided, rather than focusing on one building at a time, maybe we needed to take a look at all town buildings,” said Donna Hepp, one of four members of the Belmont Facility Strategy Committee. “If you were going to do a major remodel on your house, you’d have an overall strategy – you wouldn’t just start doing this and that.”
That’s a good way to approach the issues, said Cushing, the gruop’s field services representative.“We’re heard a fair amount of Yankee pragmatism. If the town has 12 buildings and we’re not fully utilizing all of them, why would you build a new building?” she said. “But people can be reluctant to spend money unless they can see the big picture.”
“They’re definitely not the only ones dealing with this,” he said. “But Belmont is definitely at one end of the spectrum, because they’ve got a lot of properties.”
The New Hampshire Preservation Alliance long ago realized that a key to maintaining historic buildings was to give them a modern use – preservation through utilization, so to speak.
“What our organization does is try to encourage rethinking and retooling of these buildings: Can you use them? If not, can you responsibly unload them: put an easement on them, sell them on the private market, get some private enterprise using those buildings and returning them to the tax rolls,” Cushing said.
The poster child in New Hampshire for this effort is the Manchester Millyard. That long stretch of brick buildings along the Merrimack River were largely abandoned and empty for years, remaining partly because it was too expensive to remove them, before businesses, led by inventor Dean Kamen, as well as nonprofits and colleges, turned them into office space now touted for invigorating the New Hampshire’s biggest city and for playing a key part in the state’s role in the biotech boom.
Nashua, the state’s second-largest city, has largely taken a different route in recent years, turning old mills into condominiums and apartments for downtown housing.
Belmont’s downtown mill has a typical history for such structures in New Hampshire. Built before the Civil War as a cotton and woolen mill using water power, it transitioned into manufacturing space around the turn of the 20th century, changing hands a few times as it struggled after World War II until finally closing in 1970. Some small businesses moved in and out until the 1992 fire gutted the building. Belmont took it over for back taxes in 1995, and local citizens banded together to save it.
A key point was a 20-year development grant, which allowed upgrades that have kept the building alive. Businesses ranging from doctors’ offices to a restaurant run by the culinary arts department of Lakes Regional Community College have come and gone.
Part of the incentive for the current study, Hepp said, is that the grant runs out in 2019, which allows for more flexibility – but also more uncertainty – in planning its future.
Belmont is also home to the Gale School, which dates to 1894 but appears doomed unless money can be raised to move it and fix it up. The school, owned by the Shaker Regional School District rather than the town, is one of the structures named in the 2017 Seven to Save list put out by the N.H. Preservation Alliance, highlighting historically important structures in imminent danger.
The Belmont Facility Strategy Committee isn’t considering the Gale School in its plans, which concentrate on the downtown Village District.
Hepp said the group is aiming to present the 2018 town meeting with a request for studies so that more specific proposals –with specific dollar figures – can be drawn up for consideration in future years.
“The comments that we have had from citizens made it clear that there’s a lot of interest in the historic character of the community. It is important to them,” Hepp said.
There’s another argument, Cushing said. If you abandon your old building and build new, you might be duplicating efforts and costs.
“A lot of towns have an old town hall and a new town complex, and they have to maintain both,” he said. “Wentworth is one of those. They don’t really know what to do with the old town hall.”
(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)