Budget Committee will stay on in Winnisquam
March 24, 2010
TILTON — The Budget Committee for the Winnisquam Regional School District will continue on, after a petitioned warrant article asking for its abolishment was defeated.
The article was four votes shy of getting tabled early in the meeting, but with that motion not getting the required 2/3 vote, discussion continued for more than an hour.
Northfield resident Kevin Waldron made the motion to table, calling the Budget Committee "the only semblance of sanity" in the budget process.
The article asked to put budget oversight in the hands of the School Board and Finance Committee. Robert Holt of Sanbornton, who petitioned the warrant article, said his major concern has been vacancies on the committee, namely the three empty Tilton seats.
"If this body want to keep this Budget Committee, then the committee needs full representation," Holt said.
Tilton Selectman Norm Boudreau said he was in favor of the committee and that he would put his name in for consideration to take one of Tilton's seats.
"The School Board has other issues that they also need to look at," Boudreau said. "The Budget Committee is holding the bottom line for all of us."
Sanbornton resident Don Bormes said that when the School Board had full control, the budget averaged an 8.5 percent increase each year. Since the Budget Committee was established in 2007, it has averaged a 3.5 percent increase.
"The Budget Committee is nothing but a check and balance," Bormes said. "Getting rid of the Budget Committee would really harm the community because then you would not have a check and balance … We are rapidly getting to the point where we can not afford our taxes."
Sanbornton resident Jennifer Holt said she had voted for the Budget Committee three years ago, when "spending seemed through the roof." What she thought the committee would do and what it actually does are two different things, she said.
"Somehow it has morphed into something completely different where it is now controlling the purse strings," Holt said.
She said the people who were overspending on the School Board are no longer on the board, and the administration has changed as well.
Several residents asked questions about what the committee does and whether it sets policies or makes decisions outside of the numbers.
Budget Committee Chairman Keith Murray said the committee does not make policy and that any cuts in positions, curriculum materials or other budget items are entirely up to the School Board and the administration.
"We focus like a laser beam on the budget," Murray said.
When asked what the School Board's take on the article was, board Chairman Michael Gagne said the majority of the board was in favor of its passage. When polled later on, only board member Jonathan Dupuis said he was in favor of the Budget Committee.
Board member Jasen Stock, who has also served on the Budget Committee, said the felt the committee had served its purpose and was no longer needed.
"I think the district's accounting house is in order at this point," he said.
Northfield resident David Court said the very fact that the School Board doesn't want a Budget Committee makes him want it. He also said Winnisquam is one of the best funded school systems in the state.
"I object to relating the quality of education to money," Court said.
Northfield resident Karen Wilcox said she agreed with Stock that the district's accounting is now in order and that it should be up to residents to attend meetings and "be the checks and balances."
Sanbornton resident Earl Leighton supported the Budget Committee and said its purpose was to review the budget and make suggestions.
"All of us voters ultimately have the control of what's going to be spent today," he said.
The article failed, with 85 people voting in favor and 120 voting against.