February 06, 2013WHITEFIELD — All WMR School District warrant articles will appear on the ballot as written and presented at Monday night's First Deliberative Session, giving voters a chance to say "yes" or "no" to seven items on Tuesday, March 12.
The SB-2 Deliberative Session was adjourned in 45 minutes with little comment or discussion and no amendments from the crowd of 100-plus under the guidance of District moderator Ben Jellison of Carroll, who also serves as his own town's moderator.
Article 1 seeks to secure $18,073,862 for a brand-new addition to the White Mountain Regional High School (WMRHS), designed to house a new Career and Technical Education (CTE) Center, including equipment and furnishings, and various fees and incidentals.
The article is contingent on the District receiving 75 percent — $13,500,000 — in state CTE funding. The article also seeks authorization to issue bonds or notes for $4,573,862 as well as to pay $87,105 in interest in the first year.
If state building aid becomes available, then the 25 percent balance that District taxpayers would otherwise have to pay would be reduced to 11 percent.
School board member Peter Riviere of Lancaster listed 10 reasons for District voters to vote "yes." It is the nearest thing to "free" money the District will likely ever see, he said. "It's our turn for 75 percent state funding, and it could be 15 or 20 years before it's our turn again," Riviere said.
The CTE project includes a wood-burning biomass plant; five teachers will have a regular classroom to call their own, no longer having to use rolling carts; and several CTE clusters will provide students with "real-world" experience.
Holding operating costs down has been a bonus to having the school board members and administrators work together to plan the CTE project.
"The District's school operating costs have been reduced two years in a row," Riviere said. School taxes only went up in most towns because of lost state revenues.
"I hope you'll support this CTE project," Riviere concluded.
"Article 1 will be on the ballot as written," intoned Jellison, using the standard SB-2 phrase when discussion ends.
Article 2, which seeks authorization for the District to float a $4,330,798 bond to renovate aspects of the existing WMRHS building once the CTE project is completed, drew only a little more discussion.
Article 2 is contingent on both approval of Article 1 for the CTE construction project and getting 56 percent state building aid under House Bill 570 for this specific project.
HB 570's prime sponsor is Coös 4 Rep. Herb Richardson, a Republican of Lancaster. Other local sponsors include: Coös 7 Rep. Rideout, another Republican of Lancaster; Coös 3 Rep. Robert Theberge, a Democrat of Berlin; and Coös 1 Rep. Larry Rappaport, plus District 1 Senator Jeff Woodburn of Dalton.
A hearing will be held at 2:30 p.m. tomorrow (Feb. 7) in Concord in front of the House Education Committee, he said.
"This is the most important project, the most important bond issue we've had in many years," explained Richardson, who said he was thankful to the many Building Committee members who have worked on the overall project.
The renovations project is a bare-minimum project, he said, designed to deal with electrical safety issues, adding sprinklers, replacing energy inefficient windows, removing asbestos tiles and enhancing security for students, staff and teachers in the building. "Times have changed," Richardson said.
Rep. Marcia Hammon of Whitefield said she hoped District voters would understand that Article 1 must pass and state aid must be assured if Article 2 is to go into effect.
There was no discussion of the remaining major funding articles: Article 3 that seeks passage of the 2013-2014 budget of $19,477,915; and Article 4 that seeks to fund a one-year support staff contract that would cost $52,197 over last year's budget.
Riviere and Richardson both spoke in support of rescinding the provisions of SB-2, first adopted 15 years ago on March 10, 1998.
Holding a District school meeting at WMRHS on a Saturday with a communal lunch break would help the District build a sense of community and compromise.