Kids Get Fit while Earning Much-needed Funds for their School

by Karen Plumley

First graders stretch at the starting line last week at the elementary school track.

No need to worry about rising gas prices.  The students at Pelham Elementary School fun have found a lot of more enjoyable ways to get around:  bikes, scooters, roller blades and more.  The school’s Parent Teacher Association (PTA) held its first-ever Fun Fitness fundraiser during a crisp fall afternoon on October 5. 

The event enjoyed a 90 percent participation rate, with a total of 815 children taking part.  Students were given the option of several activities to participate in, including bike riding, basketball, running/walking, scooters/roller blades, and jump rope.  The latter two events were for fourth and fifth graders only.  According to Fun Fitness Chairperson Jennifer McPhee, the most popular activity by far was bike riding.  PTA board members and parent volunteers collected and organized the 425 bikes the day before the event.  There were bikes parked in the gym, and in both the east and west wing common areas, organized by classroom.

The event was prearranged mainly into grades, with four half-hour-long sessions:  two in the morning and two in the afternoon.  Nearly 100 parents volunteered to help out during the day, with several more volunteering at the last minute.  “The event has been flowing really nicely so far,” commented McPhee.  In addition to PTA members and parent volunteers, many teachers also assisted in the effort.  The Unified Arts teachers assisted throughout the entire event.  “We want to thank all the members of the PTA, the parents, and the teachers for helping out,” McPhee stated.

One mom from Pelham, Sheri Callahan, helped out at the track with the running/walking event.  “It’s so nice to see them get out here and run,” she said.  Students at the track were instructed to do some stretching before their event.  Each lap around the track is a measured quarter mile, and was worth two laps in the fundraiser.  Many of the youngsters were able to go around five, six, even seven times in the half hour they were allotted.  Children riding bikes completed laps around the school, while students on scooters and roller blades rode around the bus area, which was blocked off by cones.  Jump ropers were in the recess area, and the basketball activity was in the gym.

Traditionally, the school’s annual fundraiser has required the children to sell various products.  This year, inspired by a fitness fundraiser in its 11th year at Englesby Junior High School in Dracut, Massachusetts, the PTA decided to give it a try.  “It really goes along with our ongoing commitment in the school to promote healthy choices for the kids,” noted PTA Co-President Mary Collins. 

Although it was too soon to comment on the success of the event, McPhee seemed very positive and upbeat, and it was clear that the kids were having a great time.  “Historically we have been able to raise $30,000 to $40,000 during our fundraisers, so we will see,” McPhee said.  The money raised by this fundraiser will help to defray costs of school supplies, field trips, busses, guest speakers, and other enrichment activities that compliment the elementary school experience. 

Second graders in session three of the PES Fun Fitness Fundraiser get ready to pedal for dollars on October 5th.

Tot Soccer in Pelham is a Field of Smiles

When the tots take to the field, it is nothing but fun, laughter, and lots of good exercise in the outdoors.  The teams have a great time.  The sidelines are often lined with parents who grin as the munchkins try out their soccer skills and squeal with delight.

The Tot Soccer program is an offering of Pelham Parks and Recreation.

Windham’s Engine 3 in Bad Shape

by Barbara Jester

Keeping Engine 3 on the road could cost about $60,000.

The Windham Fire Department’s Engine #3 is in “tough shape,” according to Fire Chief Tom McPherson.  He gave selectmen the bad news during their Monday, October 2 board meeting.

Selectmen had expected the fire truck to last until 2011 and had budgeted accordingly through the town’s Capital Improvement Plan (CIP).

Those plans may be going up in smoke if McPherson’s predictions hold true.  “It will cost about $60,000 just to keep it on the road,” McPherson said.  “The engine is definitely tired.  It doesn't even maintain speed well.  I don’t feel it would be wise to keep it on the road.”

McPherson said he doesn’t expect the 1992 engine to last another four or five years without taxpayers making a major investment in it.  “Sixty thousand dollars buys us how much time?” Chairman Galen Stearns asked.  “There’s really no way to know,” McPherson replied.  Listed among the problems are wiring, which is rotting from the inside out, the finish on the body is bubbling up due to sub-surface rust, its lights are not reliable while being driven, and the plumbing has rotted through.

Engine #3 has worked as a front-line piece for the past 14 years, McPherson said.  The National Fire Protection Association recommends a maximum of seven years for such use.  “It’s still rolling out the door about 30 percent of the time,” he said.

Engine #3 had failed its annual inspection the day previous to the selectmen’s meeting.  The price tag just to get the truck through an inspection would be about $350.

McPherson has included purchasing a replacement engine in his proposed 2007 budget.  The estimated cost of a new fire engine would be about $450,000 if purchased next year.  This is up from the $358,000 paid for Engine #3 in 1992.  McPherson emphasized that many improvements have been made in fire trucks during the past 14 years.

“If it fits into the CIP for 2007, we should look at replacing it,” McPherson said.  “This is my priority.  I have set my sights on engine replacement.”

“There are other things going on in town that might be a higher priority,” Selectman Roger Hohenberger said.  Selectman Alan Carpenter said he feels it would be asking a lot of residents to purchase four vehicles for the fire department within a four-year time frame.  Recent purchases included a forestry truck, engine #1 and a tanker.

Selectman reached no decision on McPherson’s request.  Plans are for board members to take a look at Engine #3 for themselves.

Pelham Library under Attack for Hiring Children’s Librarian

by Diane Chubb

Pelham’s Finance Director, Janet Gallant, and Town Administrator Tom Gaydos suggested that by hiring a full-time (40-hour-per-week) Children’s Librarian, the Pelham Library is now in violation of RSA 32:10 I (e), the “No Means No” provision of the Municipal Budget Law.

The library disagrees because the warrant article asked for a dollar appropriation for benefits.  They are not offering benefits since the voters turned them down last year.

Pelham Library’s children’s librarian position has been an issue for more than three years.  Pelham’s library lags behind other libraries for similar-sized towns in children’s services.  A survey of 12 New Hampshire libraries revealed 10 of 12 employed full-time children’s librarians.

Children’s materials make up more than 60 percent of the library’s circulation, and attendance at children’s programming continues to increase. 

Library Director Sue Hoadley tried various means to fund a full-time librarian.  Yet, despite requests year after year to increase the position from a part-time position to full time to meet increased need, the Budget Committee recommended not to expend the funds.

Voters followed this recommendation, and voted “no.”  In March 2005, Pelham voters rejected the request for the additional funds to provide benefits if the children’s librarian position was changed to a full-time position.

In March 2006, the library submitted Warrant Article 32 asking the town to raise and appropriate $16,655 to fund a package of health, dental and life insurance benefits for the children’s librarian position.  The voter guide stated “This warrant article would appropriate funds to establish health, dental and life insurance benefits for the Children’s Librarian.”

The Budget Committee did not recommend the warrant article, with Angele Diack, Doug Viger, Linda Mahoney, Greg Farris, and Bob Sherman voting no.  Voters also rejected it.

As a result, Hoadley had to piece together part-time hours to cover the children’s library.  However, there were still afternoons with no adult supervision on the second floor.  As a result, Hoadley has called the police in several times when teens got unruly. 

When part-time children’s librarian, Barbara Sobol, gave notice, Hoadley revised the position.  She worked with the Board of Trustees to re-write the personnel policies, and posted a job opening for a new children’s librarian as a 40 hour/week job with no benefits.

This resulted in no additional cost to taxpayers, but added supervision on the second floor of the library.  Four weeks ago, the library hired a new Children’s Librarian, Debbie Laffond, to work 40 hours per week without heath, dental or life insurance benefits.

This caused the finance director and the town administrator to question Hoadley’s tactics.  After Laffond was hired, Gaydos informed Hoadley it was his belief, as well as that of the finance director, that hiring Laffond violated RSA 32:10.1(e).  He felt this was because of the warrant article that failed and noted that it had two parts – 1) the funds for benefits for a full-time librarian, and 2) the upgrade of the position from part-time to full-time.

Hoadley has spoken with Town Counsel and done research on her own, and believes the library has done nothing wrong and is seeking Department of Revenue Administration (DRA) guidance on this issue. 

“They think I have violated Ch 32, the Municipal Budget Law,” said Hoadley.  “I reviewed it very carefully before preparing our budget and I’m sure that I’m interpreting the law correctly.  The people who say I’m wrong haven’t pointed to anything to prove I’m wrong.”   

“We’re waiting for DRA to rule on my ‘motion,’” says Hoadley.  “Town Counsel referred it to them on September 21 – the same day as we presented our budget.  Since the major disagreement was over the children’s librarian’s hours/salary, the Budget Committee agreed to defer discussion of it until we got the DRA ruling.”

Despite agreeing to defer discussion, the Budget Committee still brought up the change to the children’s librarian position at the September 21 Budget Committee.  Committee members had plenty to say, but none of the members cited the language of the law to point to a particular violation.

“I can’t figure out where everyone is getting their information.  They do not cite the law.  But, they seem very certain that ‘no means no’ is all encompassing and lasts forever and ever,” said Hoadley.

RSA 32:10 I (e), which is the “no means no” law, states, in part, “[I]f the meeting ... does not approve an appropriation contained in a separate warrant article, the purpose or article shall be deemed one for which no appropriation is made, and no amount shall be transferred to or expended for such purpose.”

Hoadley believes the library is in compliance with RSA 32:10 I (e), because it has not expended any funds – public or private – to purchase health, dental and life insurance for the Children’s Librarian.  Deb Laffond does not receive any such benefits, so therefore, Hoadley maintains that she is abiding by the law.

Further, the proposed budget for the library for 2007 includes funding for a 40-hour-per-week children’s librarian, but without raising the bottom line on salaries.

However, the town argued that when the library’s most recent warrant article failed, voters were rejecting the funding for a benefits package and also turning down a full-time children’s librarian – forever or until they approved a new warrant article.  This would suggest that the failure of the most recent warrant article would have an impact on library staffing and funding in 2007 and future years.

Yet, when Hoadley contacted Sandra Rourke of the DRA, Rourke agreed that the law applies to actions taken by voters in the current fiscal year - it does not apply to future budgets.  Thus, the library was not violating the law with its 2007 proposed budget.

Further, the 2006 Edition of The Basic Law of Town, Village, and School District Budgeting, published by the NH Local Government Center, sets forth the “lapse rule.” 

Under the “lapse rule,” no town meeting can be bound by the votes of prior town meetings.  “If it weren’t for the lapse rule, votes taken in one year could interfere in some binding way with the following year’s budget.” (page 33)

Moreover, Hoadley points to language in RSA 32:3 V, regarding the purpose of the “no means no” law.

“‘Purpose’ means a goal or aim to be accomplished through the expenditure of public funds.  In addition, as used in RSA 32:8 and RSA 32:10, I(e), concerning the limitation on expenditures, a line on the budget form posted with the warrant, or form submitted to the department of revenue administration, or an appropriation contained in a special warrant article, shall be considered a single ‘purpose’.”  The Municipal Budget Law’s Statement of Purpose (RSA 32:1) says, in part, “It is the legislature’s ... purpose to establish uniformity in the manner of appropriating and spending public funds...”

Hoadley also contends the Municipal Budget Act does not have jurisdiction over management of the library, particularly when there is no money involved.

RSA 202-A:6 states “The library trustees shall have the entire custody and management of the public library and of all the property of the town relating thereto.”  Hoadley believes that “management of the public library” includes staffing.  It is up to the library to decide how to staff the library with the funds appropriated to it.

“The library has neither sought nor received any additional funds to increase the children’s librarian’s position from part-time to full-time or to pay benefits as requested in Warrant Article 32.  All salary is paid from the library’s 2006 salary appropriation,” confirmed Hoadley.

The matter is now awaiting a decision by the New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration.  The matter was referred to the DRA on September 21.  It will make the determination as to whether the new children’s librarian position is in compliance with state laws.

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