Budget Committee may have served its last term
Other petitioned article asks for Ferry Beach funding
February 17, 2010
WINNISQUAM — If the petitioned warrant article is approved, the Winnisquam Regional School District Budget Committee that was formed three years ago will be eliminated.
The article seeks to eliminate the committee and requests that oversight and management of the district budget be placed with the School Board and the Finance Committee.
"This probably has something to do with the multi-age class decision at Sanbornton Central School," Budget Committee Chair Keith Murray said.
Murray said the decision to cut costs by creating a multi-age class at the school has been blamed on the Budget Committee, when in fact the decision was made by the School Board and the administration before the proposed budget landed on the committee's desk. The board's decision has since been reversed after outcries from the public, but Murray said the issue unfairly shined an unfavorable light on the Budget Committee.
The committee was responsible, however, for requesting that the administration cut approximately $700,000 from its original proposal, and Murray said some people have been referring to the reductions as "Draconian" cuts.
"Some people don't like the tough decisions we have to make, but we still have to make them," Murray said.
He said that without the committee, the budget will continue to increase about 5 percent each year, which is what the district was averaging between 2000 and 2007, prior to the establishment of the committee. The total voted appropriation for 2000/2001 was $13.9 million. The total voted appropriation for 2007/2008 – the last year without a Budget Committee – was $23.4 million. Since then, increases were kept to .4 percent for 2008/2009 and 2.2 percent for 2009/2010.
Ten years from now, if the Budget Committee is abolished and the increases revert back to what they were before its creation, Murray said the budget will be at $35-36 million.
"This is unsustainable," Murray said. "It's unsustainable growth."
This year, the administration's original proposed budget showed a 6.13 percent increase over last year's. At the committee's request, the administration came back after making cuts and holding the increase to 1.14 percent.
Murray said the committee added almost $300,000 back in, based on feedback from the administration and the community that eliminating several staff positions would significantly impact student learning.
"We put that $299,000 right back into positions," Murray said. "We increased the bottom line."
The Budget Committee's final recommended budget shows a 2.5 percent increase over last year's.
Murray said he did not think the cuts that were made will negatively affect the school district, and he also pointed out that student population has dropped over the past four years and is projected to drop again.
Several attempts to access the petitioned article and its signatures, as submitted to the school district, were unsuccessful, so the Echo could not obtain comments from the petitioners.
The other petitioned article on this year's warrant asks for $37,984.40 for the fifth-graders' trip to Ferry Beach School. Last year voters approved funding for the weeklong trip, but after some debate over the petitioned article. It eventually passed with the understanding that the cost would be supported by fundraisers in the future.