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A major tax increase coming this year from school district


Wolfeboro and Tuftonboro may pay $1,658,430 extra as donor towns



AGWRSB2010CourtesyPhoto
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SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS relax at the beginning of their meeting last Monday evening, Dec. 6 (l-r): Diane Drelick, Donald Meader, Vice Chair Stacy Trites, James Manning, Administrative Secretary Joanne Fiorini, Jim Rines, Wendi Fenderson, Ernie Brown, Charlene Seibel, and Chair John Widmer. (Courtesy photo) (click for larger version)
December 09, 2010
WOLFEBORO — The Governor Wentworth Regional School Board voted to approve the preliminary 2011-12 budget at its meeting last Monday night, Dec. 6, though not without concern.

While happy with the overall budget, Budget and Finance Committee Chair John Widmer said he was worried about the way the district's taxpayers will view the final numbers.

Last year, with an accumulated $3 million in unexpended and unanticipated revenues, the district was able to buy down the tax rates to low, agreeable percentages that nearly everyone could be happy about. This year however, without that onetime money, the district faces what looks like a large tax increase, but instead proposed spending is actually on par with years past.

Faced with substantial increases in debt service and staff related expenses, the committee managed a bottom line increase of only 5.57 percent, totaling $46,195,294; a $2,439,285 increase from the current budget. But, because the return of the full $3,363,625 was given back to taxpayers as a credit to taxes this year the district will have an overall 12.99 percent tax rate increase, with Effingham and Ossipee both above 20 percent.

While the total operating budget, not including staff related expenses, went down approximately $76,000, the staff related expenses, which account for 75 to 80 percent of the budget's expenses, went up by approximately $1,605,000. Debt service, which has been low until this point, also went up by just shy of a million dollars. All in all the expenses in this budget are comparable to years prior.

Said Widmer, "The fact of the matter is that we did the right thing this year by giving money back to the taxpayers and now we've got to convince those taxpayers of that next December when we don't get that one-time money."

"It's so easy to forget [about the money given back] when it comes around to saying now I need more money from you," said Board Member Donald Meader.

Superintendent Jack Robertson added that while the district might receive more unanticipated federal monies and may be able to help itself, "we have to certainly present the worse-case scenario, so there's no surprise when the tax bills come out."

"Had we spent that money [instead of giving it back to the taxpayers] our taxpayers would of really been burnt because they'd still be spending the same amount next year. It would of just looked like less. It would have been deceiving," he added.

The proposed default budget equals almost $200,000 dollars less than the proposed budget. Widmer commented that if voters turn down the proposed budget, since cuts have already been made to many of the operating expenses, money would most likely come from programs something the district doesn't want to see happen.

More bad news is that of the estimated money to be paid by donor towns. Between Tuftonboro and Wolfeboro, the district's only two donor towns, $1,658,430 will leave the district.

Final adoption of the budget will take place at the board's Jan. 3 meeting.

Arts Center dedication

At what promises to be an exciting event the school board is inviting the public to the dedication of the Kingswood Arts Center next Thursday evening, Dec. 16, beginning at 6:30 p.m. Taking place almost exactly a year after the groundbreaking ceremony took place on Dec. 2, 2009, the grand opening of the multipurpose facility will feature performances by both the school a cappella group Route 28 and the Kingswood High School Band. Superintendent Robertson will welcome the assembled crowd while Chair of the Building Committee Ernie Brown will provide a building overview and John Widmer, Chair to the school board, will conduct the dedication and closing ceremony. Beginning at approximately 7:30 p.m. building tours will be available for the general public, during which students will be stationed throughout the building to answer questions.

With the construction of Phase Two currently 20 percent complete and anticipated to be near completion within the next school year, the board voted to approve a more traditional 2011-12 academic calendar.

The proposed calendar reverts to a 180-day schedule with normal length days, and aligns school vacations with the recommended State calendar. Differing from prior years' calendar, however, the approved 2011-12 calendar shows Sept. 6 as being the first day of school and has several prescheduled makeup days set aside on Saturdays.

Member Charlene Seibel suggested the district observe Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and replace Columbus Day with Discovery Day. Her fellow board members did not accept her suggestions and, as a result, she voted against adopting the calendar.

The board also voted to approve the extension of a three-year Primex contract. As the district's workers' compensation provider for several years now, the company offered a five percent discount for the multi-year agreement.

Another vote of approval was made regarding permission for Robertson to request a one-day waiver from the State Board of Education for the middle school students. If approved by the State, middle school students will be allowed to return to school one day later than everyone else from the district's winter break. This will allow middle school teachers and staff the chance to familiarize themselves to their temporary classrooms in the new Kingswood Arts Center. The entire top floor of the existing middle school will be relocated to the Arts Center over the winter break to allow room for construction workers to complete renovations to the space.

As Chair of the Human Resources Committee, Seibel reported that the district has reached an agreement with the Governor Wentworth Support Staff Association. The main items negotiated, Seibel said, were the health coverage plan and wage increases. It was agreed that the district will now cover 100 percent of the premium cost for health coverage, instead of the 90 percent it had been paying, and there will be no wage increase for next year other than a two percent increase for those who opt out of the health coverage.

The board will meet again on Monday, Jan. 3 beginning at 7 p.m. in the Region 9 Vocational Educational Center in Wolfeboro.

The Governor Wentworth Regional School District Deliberative Session will be held on Saturday, Feb. 5 at 10 a.m. in the new Kingswood Arts Center.

Heather Terragni can be reached at 569-3126 or hterragni@salmonpress.com

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
Summit
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