The ayes have it as Shaker voters add to budget
March 23, 2011BELMONT — Voters from the Shaker Regional School District's towns of Belmont and Canterbury filled the Belmont High School gymnasium last Friday evening, when they increased the district's operating budget by approving an amendment to add $213,830 to the $19,837,324 million bottom line.
The amendment was presented by Belmont resident Michael Guglielmo in hopes the money would be used to restore a custodial and a technology position previously removed from the budget draft, and assist in settling a teacher's contract dispute which is currently at an impasse.
His proposal came early on in the meeting, raising the operating budget to $30,020,625, and was the only major talking point of the evening.
"I'm here to support teachers and our children," Guglielmo said.
Belmont resident Ken Knowlton spoke out against the amendment, saying while he supported teachers and children, now was not the time to increase tax burdens when people were losing their jobs and struggling with maintaining their homes.
"We're in a financial tsunami, and we're going to be treading water soon," he said.
Attorney John Teague represented the School District, and cautioned voters that the addition to the budget would not guarantee how it would be spent, despite Guglielmo's intention for it to go toward the teacher's contract and restoration of two positions.
It was not legally binding, he said, and only collective bargaining would determine what is contained in the new contract, not additional money in the budget.
Selectman Jon Pike agreed, and told voters the district would be able to spend the additional funds in any manner they deemed appropriate.
"I'm opposed to the amendment. There is no control over how that money might be applied," said Pike.
Other residents felt a solid school district was beneficial to both communities and supported the extra funding in order to "build equity in the communities," as Middle School librarian Pat Piscetta stated.
After hearing both sides of the issue, a show of hands resulted in a tie vote for approving the amendment. Moderator Roy Roberts broke the tie by voting against it, but a motion to reconsider was immediately brought forward, and passed by a ballot vote of 116 to 114.
After more discussion on the matter, the amended article ultimately received an increase in support, and the $20 million operating budget passed by a vote of 156 to 75.
All other articles were swiftly approved with no comment from the public. A Land Purchase Capital Reserve Fund was dissolved and returned to the General Fund. From there, voters approved placing $25,000 of the money from that fund into a new Capital Reserve Fund for land purchases, and $94,691 was also placed in the Special Education Expendable Trust Fund. The remaining articles dealt with any unexpended fund balances that may be available on July 1, allowing the district to place $75,000 in the School Facilities and Grounds fund, $100,000 in a technology trust and finally $1,000 into a new non-lapsing Athletics/Co-curricular Revolving Fund to support programs in the future.
Elections for school board representatives were held earlier in the evening, and saw some changes for the coming year. Greta Olsen-Wilder, who served the past year on the board, was narrowly defeated in her bid for one of two seats open in Belmont when Preston Tuthill received 181 votes in his quest to remain on the board over her 175 votes. Richard Bryant took the second seat, with 200 votes for his first term as a school board member.
For Canterbury, incumbent Sumner Dole was defeated by new comer to the board, Robert Reed. Reed received 190 votes to Dole's 114.
The loss by Dole will mean a new face at the negotiation table with teachers, as he had been heavily involved in the latest round of contract talks.
Retiring teachers and staff were also honored at the meeting.
English teacher Dane Loomer will be retiring in June after 34 years at Belmont High School. Joining him in retirement will be science teacher Tom Morin, who has been at BHS since 1978.
Ruth Bennett will be retiring after 24 years in the Shaker Regional School District. Bennett has been known in recent years for her role as an administrative assistant at BHS, but she also worked as a secretary for the Middle School and was a fourth grade teacher at the Gale School.
Finally, the board recognized music director Ray Craigie, who will be retiring after 38 years, the last 28 of those years spent at BHS.
"He has been the heart and soul of the chemistry that has made Belmont High School what it is today," said school board member Tom Goulette.
Bob Young, a martial arts instructor who has worked with Belmont Elementary School students to promote self-esteem, respect, discipline and responsibility, was honored as the 2011 Champion for Children.