Petition Warrant Articles Presented At School Deliberative Session
February 15, 2019
by Len Lathrop
Hudson citizens were called to deliberate the budget and other questions posed by the administration and stamped by the elected School Board and then, as a final check and balance, reviewed by the elected Budget Committee. The moderator called folks to their chosen seats as the JROTC honor guard presented our flags. The swing chorus of the Hudson Middle School sang the national anthem and the body pledged alliance to flag and to our country.
After some guidelines, labeled the moderator’s rules, the first ballot question, which is numbered as Article 2 as the election of various candidates for public office, goes first. Alvirne’s principal, Steve Beals, explained the need for $23,989,957 for an addition and renovations to the high school. The question also requests approval to issue a bond to pay for the project. As a bonded project, three-fifths of the votes cast must be positive for passage of the project. Most will remember this as very similar as 2018 Article 2 on last year’s ballot that failed by just 42 votes for the three-fifths required. The scale of the addition includes a secure main entrance for the school with a new traffic pattern in the parking area for arriving buses and parents dropping off and/or picking up their scholars. The current gymnasium will be renovated into a theater for the school and the community after a new gymnasium is built in the current parking lot by Memorial Field, with a separate entrance for sporting events and other activities. The entrance will have bathrooms for events in and outside the building, and a concession stand that can serve both outside and inside events. The theater has a stage able to seat the complete band and will have three different seating levels for the public with all the amenities for events there.
Peggy Huard spoke in favor mentioning the building and renovation in surrounding towns. Regina Beals told the audience about rewarding community classes and events that have been offered at Alvirne and how it is, and should continue to be, a learning place for all Hudson citizens – and how the renovation is needed.
Before the third question, the operating budget, was introduced, the head count of those at this meeting at the Recreation Center broke down to 95 folks in the audience, 38 people on the two leadership committees and providing other services to the meeting, and those watching on HCTV.
The budget totals $54,765,345, with a default budget a safety gap if the budget is defeated of $54,226,858. It is published to have an estimated tax rate of $13.82.
Huard rose again with an amendment to cut $10 million from the operating budget, explaining that the current budget is no more than past years’ budgets with adjustment. Huard claimed that with the many budget transfers that occur during the school year, this is not a way to budget. The amendment failed. Gary Gasdia spoke about how the budget should not be cut and if there is any excess that it should be invested and every cost center should be reviewed.
Article 3 is for $270,000 to replace a section of roof at Alvirne High School. School Board member Lee Lavoie spoke in favor of this question, reporting that there were four layers of shingles which will need to be removed during this work project. Kevin Walsh asked about using the unassigned fund balance from the end of this year for these costs.
Article 4 asks to increase the capital reserve fund for the school renovation fund by $100,000; it will have no effect on the tax rate, and the funds will come from the unassigned fund balance.
Full-day kindergarten was brought to the ballot by citizens using a petition warrant article — voters are asked to approve $960,000 to transition Hudson from a half-day program to a full-day program start for the next school year. Fabiana Fickett spoke about the petition and why Full-Day Kindergarten is important, and the plans that the administration and FDK committee are ready to go. She explained the three different plans of how the Hudson school building could be used to make FDK happen. She continued that the request for $960,000 is the start-up cost of the most expensive option and might not be the plan that will be used. But by asking for the most expensive this allows having the funds needed to implement. To get a full explanation re-watch the meeting on HCTV. Superintendent Russell mentioned that if this article is approved, the scenario one which includes new learning cottages on the tennis courts between H. O. Smith and Library Street Schools could be ready for September.
Remember to pose all your questions of the candidates on the 19th and prepare to cast your vote on March 12.
The final question on the ballot was also by petition. Citizens want the voting process delayed by one month; the deliberative would be in February and the secret ballot would be in April. The School Board and administration are not in support of this citizen request sighting problems that could arise with teacher contracts that are mandated to be presented to teachers by April 15; and of even greater concern is the school district being handicapped, or late to hire new teachers as other communities would have an approved contract a month earlier than Hudson would have.
Selectmen Normand George Martin, one of the organizers of the petition, spoke on the article mentioning two years of March snowstorms which had affected voter turnout. On the town ballot is a similar question posed by selectmen to change the date. Both questions have language to prevent having to have two secret ballot elections, as if one fails the other fails.