Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 January 2013 23:19
GORHAM – It's been a tough couple of weeks for Gorham, especially for the school community. First it lost Jean Lary, a long time supporter of the schools as well as other Gorham groups and activities. Then this week it lost an educator ... way, way too young.
Corine E. Bergeron lost her over two year battle with cancer last Sunday. She was only 33 years old. Bergeron had taught special education and English at the Gorham Middle-High School, working mainly with seventh and eighth graders, but every student knew her - that's just the way she was.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 January 2013 23:18
Written by Barbara Tetreault
Woodburn estimated the North Country could receive between $2 million to $3 million annually if the bill passes and a casino is built.
"This is a major commitment and permanent investment in the North Country to create jobs and economic opportunity. With the ultimate passage of this bill — and the establishment of a single casino — the North Country will benefit from every dollar spent at this new facility," he said.
Woodburn announced his decision to break his neutrality and support a casino at a meeting with the Berlin city council Monday night.
Woodburn told the council he was convinced the revenue from a single gaming casino was the only way the state would be able to balance its budget and meet its obligations to municipalities and citizens.
The bill, being prepared by Senators Lou D'Allesandro (D-Manchester) and Chuck Morse (R-Salem) would dedicate the revenue generated by legalizing gambling to highways, roads, and bridges and higher education. A portion of the revenue would also be dedicated to economic development in the North Country.
Woodburn said still to be worked out is how the North Country allocation would be determined — whether it would be a percentage of the revenues or a set dollar figure. Also to be decided is what communities will be included under the definition of North Country.
Woodburn said he will be reaching out to local leaders to define how the money can be used but warned he wants the money to go directly into projects.
"It will not be used to feed the bureaucracy and will not included any studies. We need to put it right into the economy and create jobs," he said.
Woodburn noted that during his campaign for the state senate, he said he was open to legalized gambling. Specifically, he said he would support licensing video slots at one of the grand hotels.
Woodburn said the casino would likely be located at Rockingham Park in Salem but the North Country would still benefit because of the economic development funding.
Gov. Maggie Hassan has publicly announced her support for a single highly regulated casino and Woodburn said he believes the votes are there in the Senate to pass the bill. But Rep. Yvonne Thomas (D-Berlin) said she does not believe there are the votes in the House to pass the bill at this time. She said she thinks the House is fairly evenly split on the issue but stressed the picture could change.
The council, which three years ago actively supported an effort to site a casino in Berlin, appeared to favor the proposed legislation.
Rep. Robert Theberge (D-Berlin) reported the House is considering increasing the gas tax by four cents per gallon annually for three years for a total increase of 12 cents. The tax is currently 18 cents a gallon. All of the money raised by the increase would be used to fix the state's roads and bridges. Theberge said a percentage of the money would go to municipalities for road and bridge work. The gas tax was last raised in 1991.
Rep. Thomas said she opposes increasing the gas tax because she feels it hits North Country drivers especially hard and is unfair to the region. She said the price of gasoline in the North Country is already ten to 20 cents a gallon higher than in southern New Hampshire. She said people in rural areas also have to drive further to get to places. Thomas said she feels increasing car registration fees is a fairer way to raise money for road and bridge repairs.
Grenier agreed with Thomas, noting that higher gasoline prices make it economically unfeasible for people and businesses to locate here.
The mayor also charged the major gasoline distributors are gorging North Country customers. He said gas is cheaper at the pumps in Maine than at North Country gas stations despite the fact that Maine has a higher gas tax than New Hampshire.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 January 2013 23:53
The Berlin School board first learned the district would be getting $93,102 less than expected in state adequacy aid for the current year at its first meeting in January. But Berlin is hardly alone. In total the shortfall affects 79 school districts across the state, including all the districts covered by this newspaper.
The Gorham Regional Cooperative School District (Gorham, Randolph, Shelburne) is losing $11,761. Dummer is losing $1,826 and Milan $12,288.
The objections over having to adjust budgets put together a year ago and already partially spent was statewide and the result has been a bill filed by Sen. Molly Kelly (D-Keene) and co-sponsored by North Country Senator Jeff Woodward that would restore funding for this year (FY13).
The shortfall came as a result of a miscalculation by the state Department of Education in the way it interpreted a budget law when it calculated each district's adequacy aid. Adequacy aid is the formula used to make sure the state is meeting its constitutional mandate to provide an equal and adequate education to each child.
The department had mistakenly thought a “hold harmless clause” in the budget law applied to both last year and this year. When the state learned of its mistake, totaling $3.4 million state-wide, it sought to get that money back by informing the school districts affected they would be getting less than expected in their April payments from the state.
Adequacy aid is based on a number of factors, including enrollment, the number of children on the state's subsidized meal program and the statewide property tax. The law passed in 2011 changed the way student enrollment is measured. Previously it was based on three year old data, giving school districts time to adjust. Now it is collected for the current year, requiring quicker adjustments by school district officials. This was probably at least part of the reason for the “hold harmless” clause in the new law. State education department officials interpreted it to be for two years, now they are saying that is a mistake and it was meant for only one year.
The problem is school districts are now halfway through the school year and less money from the state will mean school officials will need to scramble to replace it.
A public hearing on Senate Bill 40 was scheduled for yesterday afternoon, Jan. 22. If the Senate approved the bill it will go to the House for another public hearing and vote. If approved it will provide the same amount of state aid for all districts that he received last year, and expected this year.
Next year, FY14, however, the Berlin School District has already been notified it will lose about $340,000 in state adequacy aid. Berlin Mayor Paul Brenier said at a recent city counsel meeting that represented 80 cents on the tax rate.
In Gorham the decrease will be about $82,412, Shelburne about $20,279, Dummer about $29,593 and Milan about $61,803.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 January 2013 23:53
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- BIDPA discusses future options for former Woolworth building
- School board hopes to put a computer in the hands of every student
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