Bethlehem Board of Selectmen
October 16, 2017
Present: Chairman Moritz, Selectman Glavac, Selectman Boisseau, Selectman Moore, Selectman Ubaldo.
Chairman Moritz opened the meeting at 6:30 pm.
Sandy Laleme told the Board that she will be testifying on November 9th and wanted to let the Board know she will be testifying about how the Northern Pass will affect tourism. She said Bethlehem is a recreational town and also said she will bring up the construction concerns about Route 302 being hugely impacted. She explained one lane will be closed at all times. Mrs. Laleme said there is concern about shoreline damage to Millers Pond and if alternate routes will be used there is no agreement for them to repair our roads. She also said the towers do not fit into our Master Plan and they are breaking multiple town ordinances. She explained abutters have to comply with the ordinance and they need to hear that. She also expressed concern that the Northern Pass construction may happen at the same time as the culvert project on 302.
Chairman Moritz welcomed the School Boards from Profile and Bethlehem Elementary School and said they want to get a feel for the budget going forward. She asked what percent of the school tax rate comes from each school and Superintendent, Pierre Couture, said he would get her that information. Kim Shillieto (Profile) said they started contract negotiations and are waiting on health insurance costs. He said he is not aware of any increases so should be close to level but may be a slight increase due to contract negotiations. There was discussion about Profile’s budget decreasing and the surplus. Mr. Couture said an out of district placement moved out of the district and said they have also been reducing staff by attrition. There was discussion about school population and the predictions for the next 6 – 7 years based on enrollment at the elementary schools.
Mr. Couture said the state adequacy aid is being reduced by 4% every year and said the state used to pay 35% towards retirement and now pays 0%. He also explained special education catastrophic aid used to be 100% and is now 40 – 60%. He suggested people contact their representatives. Mr. Shillieto said they are changing lighting to LED to save costs and had engineers come in to assess costs on lighting and heating usage. Mike Culver (Profile) said they are coming to the limit on cutting budgets and said they can’t keep cutting. He said the only way to fix it is to increase revenue or the tax rate will increase. Mr. Culver also said if the budgets are slashed then services will be slashed. He said people are used to services they get and asked if people will leave when services are cut. Mr. Shillieto said Profile is pursuing tuition students and said they have 4 this year. Rich Larcom (Profile) said they are looking at energy efficiency and there is a sub-committee looking at solar power. He said there is value in school system and said the quality of the school impacts value of homes and people move to community because of value of school. Carol Kerivan (Bethlehem) handed out a list of projects that have been done at the school. She said the school is in fantastic physical shape. She also said the teacher contracts were renegotiated so they no longer have Cadillac insurance plans. Some projects they are looking at is tinting windows as suggested for safety and will be looking for grants for that and also the playground that is raising money by fundraising. Mrs. Kerivan also said they need to update the van but don’t have any large projects going forward and said there will be a slight increase due to SAU costs and health insurance. Mrs. Kerivan discussed an economic development group she is part of that is working with companies to try to get them to move to Bethlehem. She said they have been meeting with companies and investors. She also reviewed home sales and values for the last few years and said the market is stable. Mr. Culver said what contributed to that is the tax rate was stable during that time and services increased significantly. He said that is what draws people in but that could change with a huge revenue loss and increased tax rate. Chairman Moritz asked about the enrollment being down at the elementary school but not reduced personnel. Mrs. Kerivan said the class sizes fluctuate and said they proposed to cut a teacher but parents voted it back in. There was discussion about the savings in cost by having the preschool at the elementary school. Selectman Glavac said they need to look at trends and future revenues. He said the largest taxpayer in town is on a decline and revenue received from them is going from $750,000.00 to approx. 20 to 30 thousand in next five years. Cheryl Jensen asked how much less we would pay each year for the bond and Mr. Couture said he would get that information to her. Tim Vaughn said because of contracts you can only work with 18 to 22% of the budget. He said the per pupil costs for students at Bethlehem and Profile are higher than state average. Mr. Couture said it is due to small schools with lower enrollment but said there is a requirement by the state on what has to be offered. He said they want to provide the AP classes but they are small classes. There was discussion about student to teacher ratio which is low in Bethlehem. Mr. Vaughn suggested consolidating services. Mr. Culver said if you reduce staff you reduce services by eliminating classes. Mrs. Kerivan said all the kids wind up at Profile so the solution to controlling costs would be one unified elementary school. There was discussion about consolidating and was mentioned other states are forcing schools to be closed. There was also discussion about a study that was done to combine Profile and Littleton but people didn’t like it. It was stated that there would still be fewer than 500 students if Lisbon, Littleton, and Profile combined. Dann said to increase revenues or tax rate is wrong way of thinking. He said it cost $6000.00 to send a child to private school per year and $1000.00 to homeschool. He also said grants are tax money. Mr. McGrath said he has idea for increased revenue that would increase it by 54 million. Selectman Glavac said the 54 million dollar deal is not a joke.
Wood assessing – $2000.00 proposed. Chairman Moritz explained we don’t have to have an assessor because people can assess their own but that is usually assessed lower so revenue could be affected. There was discussion about revenue and said it varies because it depends on logging. The Board agreed it was beneficial to have a wood assessor.
Assessing – There was an increase due to the GIS hosting. It was also stated the assessing update will be next year and will cost approx. $40,000.00 but funds will be taken out of the Capital Reserve Fund.
Mary Lou Krambeer came before the Board to discuss LED lighting for the streetlights. She said she spoke with Eversource and a Contractor and said it is a 2.5 year payback. She said it is a 43% savings per year and said the total cost to replace is $59,508.00 with a rebate of $23225.00 so a net cost of $36,283.00 and asked if it could be a warrant article. She said she has a draft set of steps and would be working with Dan Crosby and David VanHouten who are very knowledgeable. She said if they sign contract in 2017 with intent they can lock in the rebate but will not be committed if vote doesn’t go through. Dann said there is an energy conservation commission in Littleton that has already done this and could maybe by helpful. Mrs. Krambeer said Whitefield and Franconia are working with Infinity now to do this. Selectman Ubaldo said it would have to be put out to bid and Infinity could come up without giving a commitment. Mrs. Krambeer said she could contact 3 companies for bids. Chairman Moritz said she will help Mrs. Krambeer work on this. Selectman Glavac said to post an ad for LED work group at the town hall, post office and website for 2 weeks to request volunteers. The Board agreed to that and agreed to have Infinity come after work group is set up.
The Board reviewed the minutes from 10/09/17. Chairman Moritz moved to approve the minutes. Selectman Moore seconded. Carried 5-0.
At 8:07 Chairman Moritz moved to go into non-public session per RSA 91A:3 II for matters of personnel and legal. Selectman Boisseau seconded. Chairman Moritz did roll call with all members agreeing to go into non-public session.
Chairman Moritz moved to approve raises for highway employees as presented by Road Agent, Brett Jackson. Carried 5-0.
Selectman Glavac moved to increase rate for Deb Bayley by $1.00/hour. Selectman Moore seconded. Carried 5-0.
At 9:55 Selectman Ubaldo moved to come out of non-public session. Chairman Moritz seconded. Chairman Moritz did roll call with all members agreeing to come out of non-public session.
At 9:55 Selectman Glavac moved to adjourn. Selectman Ubaldo seconded. Carried 5-0.