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WMRSD school board adopts zero percent budget for 2014-15

Also backs $18 million CTE project with 75% state aid

December 23, 2013
WHITEFIELD — The WMRSD school board voted unanimously, 7 to 0, on Monday night, Dec. 16, to put a hold-the-line zero-increase budget before District voters at the Public Budget Hearing on Tuesday, Jan. 14, and then, assuming there are no adjustments, at the First Deliberative Session on Monday, Feb. 3.

School District ballot votes are scheduled across the District on Tuesday, March 11 — also Town Meeting Day.

Board members had indicated at an earlier meeting on Dec. 3 that they could not support a tentative budget that Interim SAU 36 Interim Superintendent Dr. Harry Fensom and his administrative team had developed and presented over three separate budget sessions that called for a 1.93 percent increase, totaling $378,197.

This draft budget would have totaled nearly $20 million or $19,958,309, up from the FY 13-14 budget of $19,580,112 that passed in March 2013.

The prior year's budget — $19,719,747 — in FY 12-13 was higher than this year's budget.

The school board left it up to the superintendent to work out with his administrative team the place where reductions would be made in the tentative budget. Board members approved the superintendent's budget that was presented in nine major sub-categories without any detail: District; technology, maintenance, District-wide Special Ed.; North Country CLASS; Jefferson; Lancaster; WMRHS; and Whitefield.

The WMRHS, for example, originally would have had $32,330 fewer dollars than are included in this year's budget, dropping the total down to $4,694,564 from $4,726,894.

The WMRHS budget approved on Dec. 16, however, slashed $177,140 or some 47 percent of the total dollars trimmed across the District, however. It included new folding tables for the cafeteria to replace those that no longer meet safety codes.

Board members said they were comfortable letting the administrative team make the final decisions; they pride themselves on not being micro-managers.

The board agreed that if the fund balance — surplus — is very large that it would consider buying some priority items that were dropped from the proposed budget before year's end.

Teacher contract negotiations have not yet been completed and will likely not be until next month. Voters will face a separate warrant article that will cover increased costs.

Another separate warrant article will also give voters a chance to approve or not approve a completed one-year support staff contract that calls for $92,490 to be raised from taxes.

Two more warrant articles are proposed for the warrant: $15,000 to the Capital Reserve Fund-Truck and $50,000 to the Capital Reserve Fund-District-Wide Road Maintenance and Paving, both to come from surplus funds on hand on June 30, 2015.

The school board also voted unanimously, 7 to 0, to give voters a second chance to add new up-to-code classroom space and equipment for today and tomorrow's Career and Technical Education programs at White Mountains Regional High School.

The Legislature has already approved allocating 75 percent state aid for the $18,073,862 project.

For the proposed project to pass, 60 percent of those voting must vote "yes."

Rep. Herb Richardson of Lancaster pointed out that Republican Minority Leader Rep. Gene Chandler of Bartlett and Public Works Committee chairman David Campbell, plus many other North Country supporters, including the late Executive Councilor Ray Burton, Sen. Lou D'Allesandro of Manchester, Gov. Maggie Hassan and former state Rep. Brien Ward of Littleton, had ensured that SAU 36 voters would get a second chance to say "yes" to a project that is guaranteed to receive 75 percent state aid. Some 56 percent of District voters did cast "yes" ballots, even if not the super-majority needed, he noted.

"It's for the kids," Richardson pointed out.

"It's also for the community," said school board member Becky Matthews of Whitefield.

In other action, the board voted to hire Anthony Saffinario, special education teacher at WES, at a pro-rated salary of $29,139, Step 0-BA, pro-rated and to hire WES night custodian Cathy Bartsch for 29 hours a week at an hourly salary of $12.42

To board approved coaching nominations: Jarod Mills, Varsity Wrestling (.65 FTE), WMRHS, Salary $2,178 (renomination); Nicholas Rue, Varsity Wrestling (.35 FTE), WMRHS, Salary $1,173 (new); Patrick Austin, MS Wrestling (.8 FTE), LES-WES, Salary $1,515 (new); and Nicholas Rue, MS Wrestling (.2 FTE), LES-WES, Salary $379.00 (new).

The board also approved Patricia Ainsworth, Student Council Co-Advisor, WMRHS, Salary $655 (adjusted) and Lindsey Houston, Student Council Co-Advisor, WMRHS, Salary $655 (new).

At its Dec. 2 meeting the board granted a child-rearing leave request to Melissa Jellison from May 2, 2014, to June 18, 2014.

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