READY TO DELIBERATE. School board and district members at the beginning of the Deliberative Session last Saturday (l-r): Moderator Randy Walker, Administrative Secretary Joanne Fiorini, Attorney Barbara Loughman, Superintendent Kathleen Cuddy-Egbert, Board Chair Stacy Trites, Vice-Chair Charlene Seibel, Board Members Ernie Brown, Diane Carlson, Julianne Cardinal, Jack Widmer, Connor MacIver and Dr. James Manning. (Heather Terragni photo) (click for larger version)
February 06, 2014WOLFEBORO — The Governor Wentworth Regional School District Deliberative Session was held last Saturday morning, Feb. 1, at the Kingswood Arts Center.
After Kingswood's a cappella group Route 28 sang a beautiful rendition of the national anthem and Governor Wentworth Regional School Board Chair Stacy Trites presented a very positive state of the schools report, Moderator Randy Walker focused the audience on the five warrant articles up for voters' consideration in March.
While there was discussion on the articles, no changes were made.
Article I: To choose school district officers.
There is only one contested race for a Governor Wentworth Regional School Board seat this March and that is for the Wolfeboro seat, between current Board Chair Stacy Trites and Wolfeboro resident Robert Jones.
Current School Board Members Dr. James Manning of Brookfield and Charlene Seibel of Wolfeboro (at-large seat) are running uncontested to keep their positions on the board. Moderator Randy Walker is also up for re-election.
Article II: To raise and appropriate up to the sum of $60,000 to be added to the Turf Field Capital Reserve Fund.
If approved this article allows up to $60,000 to be set aside for the eventual replacement of the Kingswood Complex turf field. This money would come from the unencumbered year-end fund balance only if it's available and requires no additional funds to be raised.
The estimated replacement cost for the turf field falls between $700,000 and $750,000. The idea behind this Capital Reserve Fund, which was approved by voters last year, is to save up little by little until replacement is necessary and avoid having to come up with hundreds of thousands of dollars at once. If the district is able to set aside $60,000 per year until 2024 when replacement is likely, it should have accumulated $720,000-plus with interest.
The unencumbered year-end fund balance is money that was budgeted for, but not used. This could be a good use of leftover funds and a way to avoid hitting taxpayers with a large bond in the future.
Article III: To raise and appropriate the sum of $200,000 for repairs and improvements of buildings/grounds.
Article III comes as no surprise for those who have seen a GWRSD warrant before. The money asked for in this article goes towards district-wide repairs and capital improvement projects, both of which there are never shortages of.
The buildings and grounds across the district represent a large investment on the part of the taxpayers and this article helps protect that investment. It is the only resource for major repair work on the buildings.
Some of the anticipated 2014-15 projects include making upgrades to the HVAC system at the New Durham School and repairing sections of the roof as well as upgrading the fire alarm control panels at Tuftonboro Central School.
Article IV: To authorize the school board to enter into a 10-year tuition agreement with the Middleton School District for education of Middleton students in grades 7 – 12 beginning on July 1, 2015.
Considered a win-win situation by board members, the tuition agreement described in article IV could bring in revenue to the district in a time of declining enrollment as well as offer new academic opportunities to Middleton students.
Since being approached by the Middleton School Board about a year ago Governor Wentworth administration together with Middleton School District officials has drafted an agreement that both parties support and believe is beneficial to students and taxpayers.
If passed GWRSD will have additional annual revenue of approximately $1.4 million dollars (dependent on enrollment numbers) to offset operating costs and taxes.
The tuition agreed upon is a base rate of $10,948 per student and will fluctuate based on changes to the adopted general fund budget. This figure was determined by taking the district's estimated cost per pupil, approximately $16,502, and subtracting fees associated with being a full member town, which Middleton would not be, such as transportation, plant operations, debt service, etc.
Middleton School District will be responsible for transporting its own students as well as for any supplemental costs for special education.
Due to declining enrollment numbers throughout the Kingswood complex, no additional staff is anticipated as necessary to accommodate for the influx of approximately 130 Middleton students (40 at the middle school level and 90 at the high school level).
The Middleton School District will be allowed to appoint one of its members as a nonvoting representative to the Governor Wentworth Regional School Board.
Superintendent Kathleen Cuddy-Egbert explained that though the high school has a 1,200-student capacity, enrollment numbers around 80 percent are optimal for school operations and learning. Even with adding the Middleton students Kingswood would still be well below the optimal 80 percent capacity she said.
The tuition agreement has been approved by the State Board of Education, but needs the approval of both GWRSD voters and the Middleton School District voters to make it binding. Both communities need to pass their articles in order for this agreement to take effect.
In conjunction with the tuition agreement Middleton residents are also voting on a proposed bond for the construction of a new elementary school.
The proposed tuition agreement can be viewed in its entirety on the GWRSD web page.
Article V: To raise and appropriate as an operating budget, not including appropriations by special warrant articles and other appropriations voted separately, $47,584,277. Should this article be defeated, the default budget shall be $47,827,173.
The proposed operating budget reflects a 0.91 percent increase in the general fund and includes expanding the district's kindergarten program to a full-day and typical expense increases in areas such employee costs and health services. A significant decrease in cost was attributed to electricity due to both increased energy efficiency and decreased town rates.
Several key factors were considered during the budget process such as declining enrollment numbers, the community's interest in full-day kindergarten, economic difficulties over the past few years, the continuation of quality programs and services, and protecting the district's current assets.
Like in years past the total overall increase comes in well below the current Consumer Price Index (CPI) of 1.6 percent.
The proposed fiscal year 2015 budget shows an increase in the general fund of only 0.91 percent or $407,667 and an overall increase in local funds including all warrant articles of 0.97 percent or $457,667. Employee costs, which are mostly governed by state and federal government and collective bargaining agreements constitute the largest increase in the general fund budget.
While the budget does include a reduction in the total number of professional staff due to declining enrollment numbers across the district, the majority of the reduction should come through natural staff attrition.
The anticipated overall impact on the district assessment is expected to be 3.42 percent. Assuming there is no change in local property valuations the tax rates for each town will increase slightly. The estimated school district tax rates are as follows: Brookfield, 11.71; Effingham, 12.78; New Durham, 13.86; Ossipee, 10.29; Tuftonboro, 5.86; and Wolfeboro, 7.27.
The proposed budget includes one of the lowest increases in a number of years and is considerably less than the default budget.
The school board recommends all five warrant articles and a majority vote is required for each.
Residents of each member town can cast their votes Tuesday, March 11, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. at their town's polling locations.
Brookfield, Brookfield Town Office
Effingham, Effingham Elementary School
New Durham, New Durham School
Ossipee, Ossipee Town Hall
Tuftonboro, Tuftonboro Town House
Wolfeboro, All Saints Episcopal Church undercroft
This meeting can be viewed in its entirety at wolfeborocommunitytelevision.com.