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Amendment to cut 10 percent of $24-million budget fails

February 16, 2011
An amendment made during the school district deliberative session to cut 10 percent from the $24,274,607 budget was voted down 81-19.

The amendment, made by Gilford resident Barbara Aichinger during the School District's deliberative session last Thursday night, asked that 10 percent be cut from the district's 2011-2012 budget, which would have decreased to $21,847,147 if it had been approved.

With only four warrant articles on the 2011 school ballot this year, including a petitioned warrant article, many public comments focused on the school's proposed operating budget, Article II.

"This 10 percent cut would be on behalf of the taxpayers here in the town going through a financial strain at this time," said Aichinger. "I am asking the School Board and the community to reach into your heart and understand that we really need a tax break here. This is the largest item in the town."

She said she believed that the town tried its best to alleviate the taxpayers this year and now looked to the School Board to do the same. Aichinger said she would even donate time of her own to helping the district manage these funds if cuts were made.

Resident Joanne McNulty, a former member of local boards and committees, said the amendment was a good idea. She said she could sympathize with those attempting to make needed cuts on committees, and said she had dealt with similar "frustrations."

"We've been spending way too much on way too many things," said McNulty.

On the other spectrum, Richard Nelson felt that proposing a last minute amendment to cut an arbitrary 10 percent from the budget would be an "irresponsible" move.

While some residents felt the principle of the amendment was worth voting against, other residents were concerned with how this cut of funds would affect the School District and its students.

"As far as cutting 10 percent, we've been watching fuel prices and medical insurance prices go up," said resident Paul Buckley. "If we cut 10 percent from the budget, how many teachers, aids, and sports programs would we have to cut in order to meet this?"

David Horvath also spoke to the issue with a few statistics in hand, and stated his concern with an increasing School District budget over the years, yet a decreasing student body population.

Horvath said 13 years ago, the school population was 1,561 compared to a projected number for next year, 1,228.

"That is 300 students less than 13 years ago, yet the budget is rising with less kids," said Horvath. "The school population is decreasing and the budget is increasing while individual taxpayer costs are astronomically rising."

Based on statistics, he said that the average cost per Gilford student is estimated to be $19,768 while years back it was $18,635. Later on he added that the national average per student is still about $10,000 and $12,000 on average for New Hampshire districts.

Despite this new information, resident Leo Sanfacon said as a father, a grandfather, and a former School Board member still involved with education, this 10 percent cut would be a hard number to swallow, since education is number one in his eyes.

"Schools are becoming more competitive for students; everyone realizes the quality of education is very important to students," said Sanfacon. "If anything, I would advocate for even more funding to achieve student excellence."

School Board Chair Kurt Webber had the last comment on the proposed amendment.

"Making an arbitrary cut would hurt programs and personnel. The Budget Committee already had the chance to make changes," said Webber. "We strive hard to come in with a responsible budget and to ensure a quality education for students at an affordable cost."

A request to vote on the amendment by a paper ballot was accepted and conducted during the deliberative session, and the amendment failed handily.

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