Voters Reinstate $400K in Cuts Made by Budget Committee

February 20, 2015

by S. Aaron Shamshoyan

Over $400,000 has been added back to the school district’s operating budget per deliberative session.  This occurred after funds had been cut from the article by the budget committee.

School board member Michael Carney made the motion to amend school district article two by adding $424,168 back to the proposed budget.

“This is a restoration amendment to bring back the funds that the school board recommended to the budget committee,” Carney said.

Going through the cuts the budget committee made, Carney explained the actual operating budget was down nearly $600,000, but interest and principal payments on approved bonds have driven the cost up.

Retirement costs were also to blame, with the state reducing its contribution and requiring the district to cover over $400,000 more than previous years.

“They’ve solved their budget problem by pushing the expenses down to the local communities,” Carney said about the state.

He noted over $2 million in significant increases were made to the budget, and the board worked hard to offset the costs including closing Haigh Elementary School to students at the end of the current school year.

“We thought it was best to close that school to help put some operational savings into the budget,” Carney said, adding about $800,000 was saved by closing the facility.

Selectman Stephen Campbell spoke as the budget committee representative saying he was opposed to the amendment and the district could find since enrollments were declining.

“You would expect that costs would be going down,” he said.  “Only one high school teacher has been reduced.”

Campbell said high school enrollment had dropped about 130 students and felt the cost decreases didn’t follow enrollment.

School board member Bernard Campbell said the staffing decisions should be left to staff, and student-to-teacher ratios are not a direct correlation.

Campbell said a band class could have 70 students and only one teacher, while Advanced Placement courses might only have 12 students.

“I believe that the school board in supporting the administration should be given the opportunity in making decisions on aligning our staff in an appropriate fashion based on programming and based on need,” Campbell said.  “The budget committee obviously is not in the school.”

Carney said the board was working hard to keep tax impacts minimal and seek savings for taxpayers.

“We are taking the impact of our budget on the tax rate very cautiously,” he said.

Voters approved the amendment, and the article was moved to the ballot to be voted upon in March.