School Budget Cut and Warrant for School Resource Officer Disapproved
At the January 12, 2017 Budget Committee meeting, the initial items were reviewed pretty smoothly. Michael Trainque, VP of Hoyle, Tanner, & Associates, presented information on the $1.6 million bond for a new Sewer Pump Station, and a $30,000 state grant for a sewer asset management project. Next, Budget Committee Chairman Keith Klawes read through the nine town warrant articles that dealt with money. For each one, a vote was taken and all were recommended by the Budget Committee. Note that there are 21 town warrant articles this year.
Sparks began to fly when discussion of the school warrant began with the $10.4 million school budget. Several members argued strongly that the budget, by increasing taxes about $4.00 per 1,000, was unaffordable, especially to the many residents on limited incomes. Some recommended sending the elementary school students to private schools where the cost per student was half that spent by the town, or moving students from the ARD school to the AES school. Neither of those ideas was considered workable by school officials. One prediction was that the school budget would result in a lot of For Sale signs around town.
When the chairman asked if anyone had a recommendation, a motion to cut the budget to $10.0 million (about 4% to each line item) was made and seconded. After more intense arguing, the motion was approved by a vote of 9-yes to 4-no, with one abstained.
Articles for 3-year teacher raises of 1% and 3-year paraprofessional raises of 1% were narrowly approved and recommended. Again, these articles, if approved by the voters, will add slightly to the total tax increase.
The article for a School Resource Officer (SRO) for $84,000 met with opposition from Selectman Jeff Gryval. The article said the School Board and the Board of Selectmen had an agreement, but Mr. Gryval said this was not true. Mr. Gryval also said it would take the town about nine months and $40,000 to find and train an officer candidate. The last SRO quit in September 2016 because there had been no agreement between the two boards.
Since this position will be vacant for at least the rest of the year, many felt it was really unnecessary. One member said there were no SROs in any nearby town except at Pembroke Academy. The vote on this article was 1-yes, 12-no, and 2 abstained, meaning the Budget Committee did not recommend this article.
The meeting which began at 6:00 p.m. finally adjourned at about 8:40 p.m.