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PMHS board approves preliminary operating budget

Increase in operating expenses less than half a percent

November 10, 2009
ALTON — After reviewing Prospect Mountain High School's proposed operating budget for the 2011 fiscal year, the JMA board voted during its Nov. 3 meeting to approve a preliminary bottom line of $6,778,680 — an increase of just under $21,000, or less than half a percent, over last year's figure.

Board member Jeff St. Cyr explained last week that the board's Finance subcommittee (which he currently chairs) was able to trim a substantial amount of money from the proposed budget by reducing the amount budgeted for teacher reimbursement under the Improvement of Instruction account by $20,000.

Recognizing that the historical tendency of teachers not to use the full amount budgeted for reimbursement has become a matter of concern for the high school budget committee in recent years, St. Cyr said the Finance Committee had opted to remove $20,000 from the reimbursement line and put a Warrant article forward next year asking voters in Alton and Barnstead to contribute $10,000 toward the creation of a new expendable trust fund that would give high school officials a cushion in the event that the reimbursement line is drained.

The Finance Committee, he said, also generated a total savings of $4,000 in the Special Education account by bringing the school psychologist in-house, rather than contracting out for those services.

By doing so, he explained, the committee was able to reduce the amount budgeted for the position from $71,000 to $67,000, four-fifths of which will be funded through a federal grant.

The Finance Committee's decision to cut $881 budgeted for faculty graduation gown rentals from the Co-Curricular Activities account sparked a heated discussion, with board member Terri Noyes questioning the need to break tradition by not having the faculty appear in gowns during next year's Commencement ceremony.

Finance Committee member Eunice Landry, who voted in favor of the reduction, said that given the condition of the economy, and the fact that graduation is ultimately a day for students, not teachers, she felt it was best to do away with the practice of purchasing faculty gowns next year.

Board member Maureen Smith said she had attended graduation ceremonies where faculty members had arrived in sneakers and jeans or with their shirts un-tucked, and was concerned that the same thing might happen at Prospect Mountain if gowns were not available to teachers.

"So, are we supposed to be their mothers?" Finance Committee member Sandy Wyatt replied, arguing that adults should know how to dress appropriately for a formal event.

Commenting that the board does not have control over every expenditure made by the high school administration, Chairman Keith Couch said he felt the board members who voiced opposition to the Finance Committee's recommendation were sending a message to Principal James Fitzpatrick to find the money elsewhere in the budget.

With a motion by Noyes to add the $881 back into the Co-Curricular account failing, the board ultimately voted 7-2 (with Noyes and Smith dissenting) to adopt the Finance Committee's recommended total of $47,662.

The remaining account totals were as follows:

-General Education — $3,232,633;

-Technology — $153,594;

-Special Education — $551,659;

-Gifted & Talented Education — $16,948;

-Vocational Education (tuition to the Region 9 Vocational center in Wolfeboro for roughly 35 students) — $56,805;

-Athletics — $162,678;

-Summer School — $8,098;

-Guidance — $397,987;

-Health Services — $75,396;

-Improvement of Instruction — $88,295;

-Library/Media — $170,291;

-Distance Learning — $55,149;

-School Board — $38,250;

-Superintendent's Office — $225,387;

-Principal's Office — $397,820;

-Business Services — $102,551;

-Building Maintenance — $978,497;

-Vocational Transportation — $25,000;

-Athletic Transportation — $42,078;

-Field Trip Transportation — $14,900.

The bottom line figure approved by the board last week does not include the cost of any Warrant articles voters might choose to approve next year.

The list of possible articles St. Cyr presented to the board included the request for $10,000 from each town to establish the expendable trust fund for teacher re-imbursements; an annual request for a certain percentage of the operating budget to be placed in an Economic Uncertainty Fund for the purpose of covering unanticipated utility expenses; requests for funding toward the purchase and installation of two new security cameras and an anti-theft alarm system for the library; a two-year teacher's contract; an article asking voters to approve the formation of a committee to study the feasibility of a joint middle school; and a request for $1,750 from each town for the purpose of funding a wind turbine feasibility study.

Voicing his concern that if the wind power feasibility article were to fail, the board would not be able to spend any money at all researching the issue, Superintendent Paul Bartolomucci suggested that it was not too late to consider alternatives, such as funding the feasibility study out of the maintenance budget.

Given the relatively low cost of the study, Couch asked the remaining board members if they would be willing to donate a portion of the stipends they receive from their local districts next year toward the project.

Landry said she had pushed for the project to be presented in the form of a Warrant article in order to get the word out to the public as early as possible about the board's plans to investigate wind power.

Arguing that there would be no point in educating the public if the idea of a wind turbine weren't feasible to begin with, Couch suggested that the board's representatives to the high school budget committee broach the subject during an upcoming budget work session, and ask for the committee's input on how the feasibility study should be funded.

NEASC awards preliminary accreditation

Fitzpatrick presented the board last week with a letter from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) announcing that Prospect Mountain had been awarded preliminary accreditation.

Although the decision will not be finalized until NEASC's Board of Trustees meets in Boston on Dec. 2 to take a formal vote, he said, the list of commendations outlined in the letter is "pretty impressive," and all indications are that final approval won't be an issue.

Odds and ends

In other business, the board approved three early graduation requests, a list of stipends for co-curricular advisors, and a faculty member's request for a two-week leave of absence.

Next meeting

The board's next meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 17, at 6:30 p.m. in the high school media center.

Brendan Berube can be reached at 569-3126 or bberube@salmonpress.com

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