CLAREMONT, NH—Several dozen people attended the Claremont School District Deliberative Session (on Feb. 6) to approve the proposed warrant articles that will come up for a vote on March 12. This year’s meeting moved along quickly and quietly, unlike past years, and lasted only an hour. All the proposed warrants were adopted easily and with little debate.
The proposed main budget this year is $35,293,063; should that fail, the default budget of $35,113,750, which is the same as last year, would kick in. In the past, default budgets have been higher, but due to legislative action, default budgets were figured differently. According to the district, there is a state law that says what is allowed to be included in the default budget and what isn’t allowed to be included. The school district and school board do not get to determine the amount of the default budget. Affecting this year’s budget were the following fixed costs increases: Voter approved Collective Bargaining Agreements, $593,878; non-CBA salary increases, $55,681; benefit cost changes, $93,134; out- of district placement & contracted service, $71,087, for a total fixed cost increase of $813,780, or $333,653 more than the current year. The district is anticipating a total loss of state revenue of $101,061. Recommended reductions included around 12 positions, which the school board believes can be accomplished through attrition and reassignments. The budget’s major cost addition of $373,914 is for a special ed alternative program at the elementary school level designed to save funding by keeping the students in the district rather than bussing them to out-of-district services, at a cost of roughly $90,000 per student. The program would be designed to serve up to 12 children and include a staff of nine. There is also funding included to open the door to using the tech center more; in this case, the board has added a ROTC class and related supplies, etc.
Other warrant articles include roof repairs at Bluff Elementary School, a new fire panel at the Disnard Elementary School—the fire panel at the school is over 20 years old with parts no longer readily available—and a district-wide two-way radio communications system. Claremont Police Chief Mark Chase spoke in support of the communications upgrade, as did SHS principal Pat Barry, who said that “there is a great need” for the upgrade and that high school personnel cannot even communicate from floor to floor with the present system. “During emergencies it is critical that the schools have methods of communication that are simple to use and reliable. A push-to-talk communication system (that uses two-way radios) would work when other means of communication have failed. This would allow staff and administration to quickly communicate with each other and first responders,” said school officials. This will also allow communication between all seven buildings within the district.
The final warrant article seeks to purchase and install surveillance cameras on school district buses.
If all the warrant articles pass at the March vote, it would mean an increase on the tax rate of 79 cents per $1,000; the loss of adequacy funding of $76,071 would add another 11 cents, for a total impact of 90 cents.
“We worked long and hard on it and I’m proud of what we’ve done,” said School Board member Jason Benware. Board Chair Frank Sprague urged support for the budget, saying “I’m really afraid of what it will do if we reduce this budget even further. Please, please support the main budget.”
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