March 21, 2012WHITEFIELD — Voters overwhelmingly approved, 1,187 to 318, the 2012-2013 WMRSD budget of $18,934,502. If they had not, under SB-2, the $18,979,385 default budget — higher by $45,000 — would have automatically gone into effect.
The one-year extension of the support staff union contract to add $60,837 to the budget passed by a nearly two-to-one margin, 986 to 519.
The two-year teachers' union contract passed by a lesser but still comfortable margin, 812 to 592. It adds $184,408 to this year's budget and $221,210 in 2012-2013, increases the teachers' contribution to health insurance coverage, and provides accountability incentives.
"In many ways, it is a unique contract," SAU 36 Superintendent Dr. Harry Fensom explained at the Feb. 6 First Deliberative Session.
The teachers' previous contract ended on June 30, 2010, meaning that they have not had any pay increases for two years: 2010-2011 and 2011-2012.
"The budget passing shows that the people of the District support the hard work that all of our teachers and staff are doing to provide a good education for our students," said board chairman Greg Odell of Dalton in an e-mail exchange. "I think that the passage of both contracts shows that the people are comfortable with the direction the District is moving in and supports the work of the negotiation committees to bring forward acceptable agreements."
White Mountains Education Association president Jon Dugan-Henriksen of Lancaster said, "We are very pleased that the teacher and support staff contracts passed, and we would like to thank everyone who supported us. Teachers and support staff work hard each day to help students meet the challenges that 21st century learning presents, and to have those efforts recognized and appreciated by the community will surely have a positive impact on teacher morale, and will help our district to retain and attract the highest quality educators. We are proud to serve our students and our community, and we look forward to continuing our progress toward increased student achievement across the District."
Dr. Fensom said, "Needless to say, we are delighted with the results of the vote and greatly appreciate the support for and confidence in our direction on behalf of the students of WMRSD shown by our voters. The budget will allow us to continue on the path to improved student achievement and increased opportunities.
"The passage of the support staff and teacher contracts provides very much deserved recognition and reward for the effort and dedication shown by both of these groups. Also, we are now in an excellent position to focus on the development of our upcoming Career and Technical Education (CTE) Center project that will be presented to our communities for review and discussion beginning this Fall."
Article 4 to allow the interest of up to $250,000 to be placed in the CTE Capital Reserve Fund (CRF) to be transferred to the general fund on or before June 30, 2012, passed 1,004 to 388.
Voters also approved by large margins adding up to $15,000 for the Plow Truck CRF, up to $125,000 for the Buildings and Grounds Maintenance Expendable Trust Fund, up to $50,000 for District-Wide Road Maintenance CRF, and up to $50,000 for Athletic Fields CRF.
Voters, however, turned down, 656 to 766, a school-board-proposed change to who can tap into the Athletic Fields CRF, turning down changing it to a school board decision and keeping it with the District voters.
Both articles designed to allow up to $25,000 into CTE and Forestry (timber cut sales) CRFs passed by large margins.
Article 12, a petitioned article that the school board's lawyers says is advisory and non-binding, passed, 797 "yes," and 622 "no." It reads in part: "Institute a five-year freeze on closing any schools in the WMRSD. This will allow families to plan where to send their children without the concern if a school be open in the near future…."
Jefferson residents, concerned for the future of the Jefferson School, spearheaded putting this article on the warrant but they worked successfully to gain the support of many District residents from the other four District towns.