Will the School District’s Top 3 Questions Move to the March 13 Ballot without Change?
The Deliberative Session is Feb. 3
January 26, 2018
by Len Lathrop
How many will, by attending this meeting, be exercising their right to be a part of this important political process? In Hudson, both governmental bodies, the school district and the town, are overseen by a form of government known as SB2, the bill that created the RSA 40:14, IV, delineating that citizens decide how they want their communities to function.
On Saturday, Feb. 3, there is a deliberative session, which is the second mandated step in the RSA. It is at the Community Center on Lions Avenue at 9:00 in the morning. The public is invited to attend. By being there, you have the opportunity to share your opinions as well as listen and respond to others.
Based on the comments by citizens at the Budget Committee Public Input Hearing a couple of Wednesdays ago, there are basically three warrant articles that might raise some discussion on Saturday. The first two are the renovation and addition proposed for the Palmer CTE Center and Alvirne High School. The third warrant that drew input was the operational budget for the school system.
The ground rules for the deliberative are simple: the moderator opens the warrant article for discussion by reading the actual wording that will be on the secret ballot on March 13. Either a member of the school board or the school administration team or the citizens who have developed the action that the article addresses explain the article.
Now it is open for comment from any registered voters in the town. When you enter the Community Center you have to register, voter lists are checked, and you get a colored voter card that identifies you as a voter and is also used when a question with more than a voice vote is required.
During this meeting, all it takes is just one person to make a motion to amend the wording of a warrant or the dollar amount of funds requested to complete the action outlined in the article, and, if it’s seconded, then all the hard work that’s gone into this project could be for nothing. The audience, everyone with a voter’s card, is then asked to approve or reject the amendment to the article. Sometimes more money is added, but, more often than not, funds are reduced. In some situations, the amount is reduced to zero, which, even if the project or purchase is approved at the polls, there are no funds to support it.
As deliberative is different than the budget committee public hearing where, at that junction of the RSA process, the only change might be how the budget committee votes for their recommendation number that appears at the bottom of the money-related warrant article. Article 1, the Palmer CTE renovation/addition, and Article 2, the Alvirne additions, could be reduced or even eliminated entirely, which would take away your right to vote on this project on March 13, as it’s been developed by the renovation committee over the past almost two years and presented to the community in different forums since September.
Citizens spoke about the expansion and renovations. The plans have been presented in the paper, there are posts on social media, and information has been distributed at local events. Getting from the point of this plan’s conception to where it is now on Warrant Article 1 and Warrant Article 2 has been a journey and a process that began two years ago. There have been architects, engineers, administrators, teachers, Hudson residents, and school board members communicating and collaborating to make sure that the plan meets the needs of students while also being a fiscally responsible for Hudson.
It starts with the school board and the senior staff who have worked with attorneys to make sure the ballot questions are worded in a way that is clear and transparent to voters. They’ve worked with the bond bank to secure rates that will be held if Article 1 and Article 2 pass. There is a renovation committee (Renovations for Generations) who came together to attend community events, share content online, distribute signs and fliers, and submit inserts in the Hudson~Litchfield News. Last week a public hearing took place, and, although attendance was light, many passionate residents, as well as budget committee members, exchanged their opinions.
While much has been said about warrant articles 1 and 2, Article 3 is the school district operating budget, which is over $53 million. The budget committee asked many question of the professional staff as they reviewed the cost centers line by line and made about $400,000 in cuts. This budget is also subject to the will of those at the deliberative session, including line items from a health insurance reserve fund to snow plowing of the schools.