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

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

" A Few Members of the Delegation that Do Not Act Honorably"

At the November 29th Carroll County Commissioner's meeting, the commissioners agreed unanimously to draw a line in the sand. It was directed at a few members of the delegation ( the 15 NH House Rep's representing Carroll County) that in their words are " not honorable, rude and bullying" toward county staff and administration. No names were released at the meeting but based upon past antics by some delegation members, it is not very hard to figure out who they are referring to.
The line in the sand is contained in a letter from the Commissioners sent to the delegation chair, Mark McConkey stating that the commissioners will honor requests for information from the delegation only if made by a vote of the delegation and sent from delegation's chair McConkey to the commissioners' chair, Amanda Bevard. 
Commissioner Mark Hounsell stated that it is the commissioner's responsibility to protect county employees from delegation members who " stray from appropriate behavior to get on hard-working people with table beating." 
Commission Chair Bevard softened the message a bit by stating that for the most part, the delegation has come a long way in the past year, but the commissioners do have a responsibility to protect their employees. 

I will reach out to the commissioners to see if any will go on the record to name the specific delegation members the letter was referring to and post it here. 

In other news at the same meeting, the commissioners also agreed unanimously to use approximately $750K of the $4 million undesignated fund balance to keep the tax rate flat.

The county budget must be finalized by the delegation by the end of March.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Minnesota named the best run state in the nation. New Hampshire #17

The rankings are from 24/7 Wall Street 

"Ranking as the 10th best run state as recently as 2012, Minnesota has climbed steadily in the rankings in recent years and is now the best-run state in the country. A relatively wealthy state, Minnesota’s $65,599 median household income is about $8,000 more than the median income nationwide. With a strong tax base, the state brings in about $4,400 a year per resident in taxes, more than all but four other states. In Minnesota, higher tax revenue means the government can save more. The state has saved the equivalent of 10.3% of its annual spending in a rainy day fund — more than most states and greater than the 8.2% average across states.
Minnesota has a nearly perfect credit rating from Moody’s with a stable outlook"
New Hampshire at #17: "New Hampshire is one of only five states with no sales tax. Partially as a result, the state government has relatively limited financial resources. The state collects the equivalent of only $1,864 in tax revenue per resident a year, the second least of any state. New Hampshire is also saddled with considerable debt, owing $6,151 per resident, far more than the average state debt per capita of $3,559. With little tax revenue and heavy borrowing, New Hampshire is struggling to meet its financial obligations by several measures. For example, only 65.5% of state pensions are funded, below the 71.6% average funding across all states. Additionally, New Hampshire only has about 6.5% of its annual expenditure saved in a rainy day fund, compared to the 8.2% average rainy day savings across all states.
A relative absence of serious financial hardship can be indicative of effective policies aimed at reducing poverty. New Hampshire has the lowest poverty rate in the country, at only 7.3%. The state allocates 36.2% of its annual expenditures to public welfare, more than the average of 33.1% across all states." 
The lowest ranked state is Louisiana. 
An interesting point made in the article is that slashing taxes to stimulate growth has not been proven to be successful. Kansas and Oklahoma are good examples and both are facing major budgetary shortfalls. Another is that across all states, an average of only 71.6% of public pensions has financial backing. New Hampshire stands at 65.5%. Lastly, we should be thankful to not be in Illinois shoes. They made public pension agreements that they could not ever fulfill, and faces one of the largest budget deficits of any state. This has caused large increases in taxes and resulted in an exodus from the state in 2015-16 that was the largest in the USA.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Risking All for (School) Choice

The following article was on the front page of Friday's Laconia Daily Sun. NH Senate Bill 193 will come before the legislature in January and if passed, could dramatically impact public education in New Hampshire. This bill will be hotly debated in Concord and it squeaked out of the NH House Education Committee on a razor-thin 10-9 margin. 
One of our three district 04 Reps, Glenn Cordelli, is a rabid supporter of the so-called " school choice" bills popping up in some statehouses around the country. In a recent Twitter post he wrote :

Many believe that this bill is quite the opposite. Supporting this bill means that you do not support public education and the vital role it plays in our communities. It means that you favor using scarce public education funding to pay for private/ religious education.

Let me share this statement from the Dover, NH School District:

Creating a voucher system funds choice at the expense of the public schools. There is no sound rationale or evidence to support the creation of a voucher system….
Public schools have a philosophical mission to develop highly educated citizens who are essential to sustaining a democratic society. The passing of SB 193 will promote the privatization of education as well as increase the potential erosion of the philosophical purpose of public education. As stated by Honorable State Representative Wayne Burton, ” Individual choice trumps the greater good of our communities.” I believe state legislators have the ethical and moral responsibility to look out for the welfare of the greater community.Public education is a foundational pillar that strengthens the welfare of the community.
This bill has the strong possibility of creating an inequitable education system in New Hampshire. The bill is at the expense of students who do not have the financial ability to attend private schools or who have specialized needs that may not be addressed in private schools and adds to the financial class divide. The strength of public schools is in their diversity. It is a strong possibility, whether an unintended consequence or not, that this bill moves public funds from students of low socio-economic status to students of higher socio-economic status…..

Keep in mind that this is the proverbial camel's nose under the tent. Rep. Cordelli is also on a special committee to determine adequacy funding for all of NH's public schools. Considering he signed on to a bill that would increase property taxes in Tuftonboro where he resides by more than $3 million, can taxpayers really trust he has the best interests of his district or rather that of out of state special interests?  Voters and taxpayers will remember come 2018.

Vouchers may help students but imperil public schools
LACONIA — School districts could lose $5.8 million in state aid, nearly $100,000 in Laconia alone, under a bill allowing public funds to be spent on private education or home schooling, according to a study by a policy analysis group.
Those are first-year effects from Senate Bill 193, according to the study by Reaching Higher NH, a nonpartisan education policy nonprofit.
Dan Vallone, director of engagement for the group, said the organization does not oppose or endorse the Senate-passed bill, which could be considered by the full House as soon as Jan. 3.
“We're just saying what a plain text reading of the bill indicates and we put it out there so people can make the best decision on what it says, what it means and what the practical implications are from a financial standpoint,” he said Thursday.

How it works
The measure would allow parents who work with an approved scholarship organization to receive the bulk of the state’s per-pupil adequate education grant, which is about $3,600, to be spent on private education or home schooling costs.
This money would no longer be available to the school district, so districts would see a loss of state aid if the bill were to pass. District officials say many of their costs are fixed and unaffected by a marginal reduction in students.
The bill would provide stabilization grants to districts for the loss of state aid exceeding one-quarter of 1 percent of the district’s voted appropriations in the prior year.
But since these grants would not cover all lost funds, costs would remain. The cost in Laconia would be $97,188, according to the study. Manchester led the list with a cost of $432,009, followed by Nashua at $407,388 and Concord at $213,684.

Stabilization grants
Assuming a 3 percent participation rate, overall state costs of stabilization grants to school districts would be $2.2 million in the first year (2018), growing to $10.1 million in year five, totaling $31 million over five years.
A comparable program in Indiana has a 3 percent participation rate. Also, unmet demand for scholarships provided in a New Hampshire tax credit program would also indicate a 3 percent participation rate could be seen here.
The bill would also allow students to join the program after being in a private preschool or kindergarten. New state spending for this group would be $2.58 million, the study found.

Participation, accountability
Most local families could meet participation requirements in the legislation that sets maximum family income at three times the federal poverty level, or $73,800 for a family of four.
In Laconia, 60 percent of students can receive free or reduced-price lunches, which are available when family income doesn’t exceed about two times the poverty level.
In its study, the organization said the bill lacks clarity about academic accountability.
“SB 193 contains accountability requirements that appear to be in contradiction with each other,” the report said. “The bill seems to compel any student who selects a voucher to take the annual statewide assessment.
“However, the bill also contains language indicating that the accountability requirements for vouchers students could be satisfied with an annual portfolio review and one other measurement tool agreed upon by the parents, the Commissioner of Education, resident superintendent, or private school principal. This issue complicates efforts to assess related potential academic impacts.”
The report also said there's nothing in the bill to prohibit the program's oversight commission from having a financial interest in education providers that could receive public money through the program.
Bill backers
Backers of the bill say it would empower parents to make the best education choices for their children. Some children might encounter bullying in a public school, or not have access to the best curriculum for their needs.
Rep. Norman Silber, R-Gilford, said he is still studying the bill, but supports it in principle.
"It's about freedom and the freedom to choose," he said. "The best people to determine how a child is to be educated are the parents.
"They can choose to send their children to public, or private non-sectarian, or parochial school or they can home school them."
On the cost question, Silber said he feels money spent on public schools doesn't translate to academic achievement. 
"In Gilford, the reality is that we're spending over $23,000 per student and the results on education achievement is miserable."
He repeated a quote he has used before.
"We're paying Cadillac and Mercedes prices and getting Yugos out of the Gilford school system."
 Sen. John Reagan, R-Deerfield, the bill's author, said the measure would improve education outcomes.
“What we know nationwide is that any time you create any type of competition in education, you get a better product,” he said. “By introducing competition, you'll get better-trained students. This has happened all around the country, and test scores in nearby public schools have increased.”
Backers also say the financial effect on school districts would be minimal and comparable to the loss of students and state money seen in the yearly churn when students move away.
Laconia School Superintendent Brendan Minnihan has concerns about the measure.
He said it has the potential for taking support away from public schools.  
“Public schools are important for promoting democracy and getting along with people from different socio-economic groups, religions and demographics,” he said. “Public schools have an important connection to the community. Not to say other schools don't have community, but it may not be one attached to your town.”
He also said that schools are equipped with options that can give children many of the educational choices that might be sought in a private education.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Moultonboro Community Development Advisory Committee Members Announced

At the November 30th BoS work session, the following were appointed to serve on the newly formed  Moultonboro Community Development Advisory Committee: Cody Gray, John Temple, Charlie Fritz, Chris Maroun, Richard Kumpf, Kevin Keyes, and Sandra Cleary.

According to the committee charge, the" goal is to make Moultonborough more attractive to developers of business and residential properties that are compatible with the needs of our town and contribute to our future economic and social health." Specifically "the Advisory Group will be tasked to identify any obstacles to cost-effective development and work with the Town Planner and the Land Use Boards to resolve any state and local regulations which may prevent such development for the future economic and social benefit of Moultonborough."
Metrics proposed to measure the committee's success include:

  • Three (3) new businesses locating or relocating in Moultonborough within 3 years.
  • One (1) new appropriate sized and priced multi-unit residential housing complex for target audience established in 3 years.
No word yet when the committee will have its inaugural meeting. 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Taylor Property Future To Be Decided?

A lively discussion today at the BoS/ABC budget work session regarding a $250K capital request for the future of the town-owned Taylor property. The discussion is viewable on Town Hall Streams and starts at about 3 hours 50 minutes in.

As per Town Planner Robert Ward, the money requested is not for a study of the property. In his opinion ( and mine as well) there have been many different studies performed on many topics in Moultonboro, and he used the term " slippage" in the town not getting to the implementation stage with many of them. 
He stated that this request has five purposes:
1. Use determination of the full property
2. Have funding available to either plan repurposing or to demolish the building
3. If the decision is to repurpose, funds would be needed for engineering services to include soil analysis, removal of contaminants etc.
4. After engineering, if the building were to be repurposed, design and architectural work would be needed and finally,
5. Actual construction. 
 If the decision were to use the property as a passive park, then there would probably be sufficient funds left to actually get that done. The money could be used for the future use of the property and should be viewed as an investment toward future use of the property. 
BoS Chair Chris Shipp made the comment that this issue has become the classic case of analysis by paralysis. He didn't want voters to get the impression that the town intends to spend 2-3 years doing more studies:  " It's time to make a decision" he said. I would agree.
The additional information provided today by the Town Planner and Town Administrator made the request much more understandable and sensible. 
Selectman Mudgett felt strongly that the Lions Club property future needs to be considered at the same as the Taylor property as they are closely related. The BoS will take up that topic at a future work session. 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Carroll County Delegation 2018 Budget Public Hearing.

2018 Commissioner's Proposed Budget can be found here. At first glance, it appears proposed expenditures are up about $1.6 million. 

The Carroll County Delegation will hold a public hearing on Monday, December 11th, 2017 at 9:00 a.m. in the Delegation Room, 2nd Floor, 95 Water Village Road, Ossipee, New Hampshire, 03864.

All citizens are invited to attend and ask questions concerning the Commissioners’ Proposed 2018 County Budget. If you need any specific accommodations, please contact us at 539-7751. (ADA) The Delegation will consider and act upon any other business that may properly be brought before the meeting or any adjournment thereof.

The meeting of the Executive Committee will be followed by a meeting of the County Convention to vote on any recommendation of the Executive Committee.

Ed Butler, Clerk Carroll County Delegation

Monday, December 4, 2017

Editorial: Increase in tolls warranted

Sunday, December 03, 2017
In folklore, trolls lived under bridges and demanded tribute. Travelers who didn’t pay up were eaten.
The members of the commission charged with advising New Hampshire’s governor about transportation policy aren’t proposing anything quite so severe, but they do want to increase tolls on the state’s highways by 50 percent. With more than 150 bridges on the state’s red list, nearly one-third of all roads in poor shape and Interstate 93 a parking lot at peak travel times, the Executive Council should give the proposal a thumbs up when it votes this week.
It’s been a decade since tolls were last raised. According to the commission’s report, they are 70 percent below the national average. It costs $7.75, for example, to traverse the length of the Massachusetts Turnpike and $7 to do the same in Maine. Taking a bridge or tunnel into New York City costs 15 bucks. But the toll to travel on most of New Hampshire’s turnpike system is $1 or less and $2 from Hampton to the Massachusetts border. The average cost per mile to use the state’s roads is 6.2 cents compared to a national average of 20.7 cents.
The additional $36 million the toll increase would bring in annually would allow system improvements to be made sooner and free up revenue to repair or replace state roads and bridges. In classic New Hampshire fashion tourists would pick up more than half the cost of the toll increases. Residents and commuters would, if lawmakers approve, receive discounts and exemptions that would take a bit of the sting out of the increase.
The added toll revenue, the advisory commission calculated, would speed up projects like the reconstruction of crash-prone Exits 6 and 7 in Manchester by six years. It would also move up by several years the timetable on the addition of an extra lane in either direction on I-93 from Bow to Exit 15 in Concord to reduce the congestion that slows traffic to a crawl when visitors head south on Sunday.
Decades of studies prove that widening highways and adding lanes seldom reduces congestion for long or even at all because more drivers decide to use the improved highway. For a state dependent on tourism, however, more cars clogging wider highways may be a good problem to have since it means more money flowing into New Hampshire.The commission found that, on average, travelers suffered a 15-minute delay on just one 10-mile stretch of I-93 during peak travel times. That translates into a $5.36 per person cost that adds up quickly. Collectively, delays on Fridays alone result in an economic loss of $1.6 million per year. The delays also damage the state’s tourist economy by making it more likely that potential visitors will stay home or travel elsewhere.
New Hampshire’s infrastructure, like that of the nation, has been neglected. On the current fix or replace timetable, the state will never catch up. An increase in tolls is warranted.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Preliminary 2018 Operating and Town Budget

The link to the budget presentation can be found here. Keep in mind that this is a preliminary budget as recommended by the Town Administrator and likely will see some revision during the next few weeks.

Some highlights:
  •  Using $1,539,000 of fund balance in the capital budget to offset some capital purchases and annual contributions to reserve and trust funds. This will bring the current fund balance close to the 12.5% target
  • The operating budget as a stand-alone item is 8,291,184 for FY 2018. This is an increase of approximately 2.23% or approximately $184,587 more than FY 2017 on a non-adjusted basis (including Library).
  •  The capital budget is up significantly ($1,897,845) as a result of a one-time expenditure for the village sidewalk construction, a new $435,000 fire truck, and some additional contributions to capital reserve account to address the higher fund balance.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

“Businesses are the very pillars of the community and have the responsibility to reach out beyond their walls to enrich the environment and people around them. We want our local companies to do just that around the holiday season and beyond,” Sandy Cleary, Founder of CruCon Cruise Outlet.

Laconia Daily Sun November 30, 2017

CruCon Cruise Outlet encourages local businesses to give back this holiday season 

MOULTONBOROUGH — New Hampshire-based CruCon Cruise Outlet is encouraging area businesses to give back this holiday season through charitable donations. CruCon Cruise Outlet, under the leadership of Sandy Cleary, which has grown into one of the largest sellers of cruises, gave more than $1.3 million in charitable donations throughout 2017. The company has especially focused on causes that directly impact youth and families of New Hampshire. “Businesses are the very pillars of the community and have the responsibility to reach out beyond their walls to enrich the environment and people around them. We want our local companies to do just that around the holiday season and beyond,” said Sandy Cleary, Founder of CruCon Cruise Outlet. “We are always looking outside the business to our communities to find ways to ensure that they are supported and strengthened. Whether that means participating in holiday food drives, hiring local for jobs, providing financial support to your favorite charity or donating your time, we can all look within ourselves to find ways to give back this holiday season.” Recently, CruCon Cruise Outlet generously pledged a total of more than $1 million to support New Hampshire organizations as they strive to continue enriching the lives of youth. Recipients include The Boys & Girls Club of The Lakes Region for facility improvements, Sandwich Children’s Center towards renovations, Granite State Children’s Alliance for expansion of services, Girls Incorporated of Nashua for expansion and refurbishment, SEE Science Center of Manchester for development of new exhibits, the Monarch School of New England for growth to support more students with special needs, New Hampshire Court Appointed Special Advocates that supports of neglected and abused children, Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth which supports every child’s health needs regardless of their ability to pay, and the Greater Lakes Region Children’s Auction which raises funds to directly support needy families and children within the Lakes Region of New Hampshire. “CruCon’s leadership recognized that Lakes Region kids need a safe place to go when they are not in school – a place that offers hot meals, homework assistance, mentoring, leadership development, art, fitness activities and many more life-changing opportunities. CruCon helped create such a place at the Boys & Girls Club, and we are very grateful for their investment in Lakes Region kids,” said Chris Emond, executive director for Boys & Girls Clubs of Central New Hampshire. “There is no doubt that the support CASA of NH receives from CruCon continues to change the lives of children throughout New Hampshire. When Sandra Cleary and her amazing team take something on they are ‘all in.’ As the need for CASA’s services grows rapidly statewide, we know that their generous investment in the lives of abused children and youth will have an impact that will echo through future generations. Together we are breaking the cycle of child abuse and working to ensure that all children have a future full of promise,” said Marty Sink, President and CEO of CASA of New Hampshire. “Support received by wonderful community partners like CruCon Cruise Outlet make a huge impact for our young patients at the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock. Resources from our philanthropic partners allows us to continue our great mission in providing the best care possible for every child, no matter their ability or inability to pay for the services they so greatly need,” said Natalie Martinez-Harrison, CHAD Community Relations Manager. “Small donations of money or time can make a big difference to local charities and it’s a great way to engage your employees in the community and is great for team building,” said CruCon’s Cleary. “Our door is open to local business interested in finding out more or joining us in these efforts.” Founded in 1997, CruCon Cruise Outlet is a fullservice North American cruise travel agency working with guests from across the world. With its headquarters in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire, the company sends over 100,000 people on cruises every year.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

BoS To Not Renew Utility Assessor Contract? That's a Good Thing.

In 2014, the Utility Assessing contract was awarded to Sansoucy, LLC by a 3-1 vote ( I voted no). Previously, the town used NH DRA values which have historically been lower than those of utility assessors. Using a private assessor , such as Sansoucy, would increase tax revenue. Utility valuations did indeed increase and it was dramatic: many millions more than the NH DRA formula. 

At today's BoS budget work session, it sounded as though our Town Assessor is recommending that the Town not utilize the services of Mr. Sansoucy, and use the 2017 valuation for 2018. 
I believed in 2014 as I do today, that these valuations are inflated and nothing more than a pass through to consumers who ultimately pay for the increased cost that the utilities are being charged on their monthly bills. 
Our utility bills are plenty high enough and while the town may see some significant increases in revenue, we individual taxpayers as well as businesses, will pay for it over time.