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School District voters reject football funding

All other articles approved at Annual Meeting

March 23, 2011
TILTON —The Friends of Winnisquam Football met with a heart-breaking defeat at the Winnisquam Regional School District's Annual Meeting Saturday in their pursuit of $12,000 to help fund high school and middle school football programs next fall.

Melanie Van Tassel narrated a PowerPoint presentation for the group, outlining a history of the teams and expenses necessary to properly equip the athletes and host games at the athletic field on Route 132 in Tilton.

Among costs the organization sought assistance with were transportation, officials, emergency personnel, insurance and other game-related expenses.

Tax impacts for the funding request, Van Tassel told the assembly, would be a total of $2.94 based on a $200,000 home in Northfield, $1.44 for similar property in Tilton, and $1.46 for Sanbornton taxpayers.

"Pennies on a thousand," she said.

Her presentation was backed up by residents and other members of FOWF. State Rep. Dennis Fields of Sanbornton said he had played sports as a child and saw no difference between football and the other sports that are funded by the district. He cited success of the 2009 season, where the varsity team played for the state championship, and said it was a great time for the whole community.

"We owe them a little gratitude and a little something to help them out; $12,000 is not going to break us," said Fields.

Others did not see it that way, however.

WRSD Budget Committee Chair Nina Gardner said she valued the importance of athletics in education, but was concerned this would be the first step toward eventual full funding by the district.

Earl Leighton of Sanbornton agreed.

"The price is only going to go higher in the future. Reading, writing and 'rithmetic is a necessity. This is a luxury," Leighton said.

Norm Boudreau of Tilton said he, too, feared this would not be a one-time request, as stated by the FOWF, and the door would continually open wider until the program was fully funded by taxpayers.

Northfield resident Leif Martinson differed with opponents, saying the group had done a lot on their own to be self-funded, as promised in 2003, when the program began.

"It's not a lot of money. I think if this year they need the help, let's give it to them," he said.

Despite the outpouring of support from parents and many residents, others were concerned about money going somewhere other than to the school district itself, as FOWF is an independent organization established to make football a reality for students at the schools.

Curt McGee of Sanbornton said he was concerned about the request.

"I object to the district giving money to an outside organization," he told Moderator Kent Finemore.

School Board Chairman Michael Gagne explained that if the article was approved, there would not be a check cut to FOWF. Instead, he said, they would have to present invoices for services, which would then be paid out, up to the amount approved by the district.

Many residents said they would prefer to make a donation to the group, rather than add the amount requested to the tax rolls.

One business owner from Northfield said he had never been approached for a donation, but would gladly give the group $50, far more than what he would pay if the article was approved.

After lengthy discussion, the measure was defeated by voters, but many people made good on promises to help the football team by dropping more than $600 in contributions in a bag for the athletes.

In other business, voters approved all of the other ten articles on the warrant, including the collective bargaining agreement, which asked for an $18,158 increase for 2011/2012 and $18,350 for the 2012/2013 school year.

They also voted to accept the report of the Winnisquam Formula Study Committee, retaining the formula as set up at last year's district meeting.

A big weight off the shoulders of the district was also achieved by the acceptance of a settlement agreement between WRSD and three women who had filed suit for sexual assault charges stemming back some 30 years. Voters were asked to approve $35,000 to pay the district's negotiated portion of the agreement.

"Mediation resulted in a settlement, quite to our surprise. The majority of the money is being paid by the insurance company," said Attorney John Teague, who represents the district.

Teague explained the victims could not go after the perpetrator due to the statute of limitations, but they claimed to have had more recent information that employees of the district knew of the actions of a former teacher, yet did nothing about the situation, leaving the school district liable.

"I disagree with that, but it would cost thousands more to fight it," Teague said.

Voters also approved the establishment of a Special Education Capital Reserve Fund with unreserved fund balances and agreed to add $480,000 of any unreserved balances to two facilities funds. An additional $450,000 was approved for withdrawal from the Capital Reserve- Buildings Renovations and Repairs Fund for work on buildings owned by the district.

For their final vote, an amendment was made to the operating budget, lowering the proposal to $23,789,386 for the next fiscal year.

The amendment was made by budget committee member Wayne Crowley of Northfield, who said he was now a firm believer in the new biomass heating plant, as the district is seeing the first savings from an energy project that included construction of the facility.

In addition to those savings, he credited Business Administrator Cheryl Somma for the $60,000 decrease in the budget.

Somma, he said, was able to refinance the bond for the project at a lower rate, saving taxpayer dollars. The amended budget faced no objection from voters and passed easily.

Salmon Press
Martin Lord & Osman
Alton School
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