Deliberative session leaves Mascenic warrant unchanged

  • Mascenic Regional School District's deliberative session ended without any changes to the proposed warrant to be voted on in March. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Mascenic Regional School District's deliberative session ended without any changes to the proposed warrant to be voted on in March. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Mascenic Regional School District's deliberative session ended without any changes to the proposed warrant to be voted on in March. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Mascenic Regional School District's deliberative session ended without any changes to the proposed warrant to be voted on in March. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Mascenic Regional School District's deliberative session ended without any changes to the proposed warrant to be voted on in March. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Mascenic Regional School District's deliberative session ended without any changes to the proposed warrant to be voted on in March. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

NEW IPSWICH — The entirety of the proposed warrant for the Mascenic Regional School District, which Greenville and New Ipswich residents will be voting on in March, remained unchanged following the deliberative session at Mascenic Regional High School on Saturday. Some residents, however, questioned the district’s plan to cut a teaching position at Mascenic High School in one of the most popular college majors — business.

The proposed operating budget for the district this year is $17.8 million, a 1.2 percent increase over the budget approved in 2012.

This year, the School Board voted to eliminate two teaching positions, including one in the business department at the high school that was previously held by Marlise Bryant before her promotion to assistant principal at the school.

Teachers and parents expressed concerns during the deliberative session Saturday about eliminating a position that will ultimately eliminate six business elective classes for students. School officials say there are not enough students interested in taking the classes to support the position.

“Based on demand, we can’t really justify having another teacher. It’s not economically prudent,” said Mascenic Principal Trevor Courtney.

But some members of the audience disagreed with the cut.

“I’m concerned about the loss of six electives for our student body in the most popular major our colleges have,” Greenville resident Kerry Thompson told the board.

Mascenic English teacher Corinne Joly of New Ipswich agreed with Thompson. “A lot of our kids want to take those courses, but are told they’re going to be cut,” she said. “Our kids need 21st century skills. I don’t think that’s a wise cut.”

­Several residents also questioned past returns — one as high as $1 million two budget cycles ago — to the town from the school district.

“It’s an exorbitant amount,” said New Ipswich resident Jay Hopkins. “It’s just padded way too much.”

Interim Superintendent Betsey Cox-Buteau said she had cut the budget by $400,000 this year specifically in an effort to reduce the projected surplus at the end of the year, in response to citizen concern on that issue.

School Board Vice Chair Tara Sousa pointed out that often the large surplus stems from unanticipated revenue, and not necessarily from “padding” in the budget.

Sousa also advocated for a warrant article for $48,475 to fund the increases in salary and benefits for Mascenic support staff, which include business support staff, teachers aids and one-on-one aides. Last year, the article was voted down by eight votes after the district had reached a contract agreement with Mascenic Education Support Staff Association.

“They are the lifeblood of our schools,” said Sousa of the personnel that would benefit from the article. She added that having one-on-one teaching aides allowed Mascenic to keep special needs students in Mascenic, when sending them out of the district would be cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Joly agreed with Sousa, saying that denying the support staff raises for a second year in a row would be a “slap in the face.”

Two warrant articles this year request additions to existing capital reserve funds. The first requests $50,000 to be added to the Special Education Capital Reserve Fund. The fund currently has $50,000 in it. If a child moved into the district who needed special education services, it could cost the district up to 100,000 or more per year to educate that child, he added.

The other capital reserve request would add $35,000 to the school repair and maintenance capital reserve fund in anticipation of major repairs scheduled over the course of the next 20 years as part of the district’s long term maintenance plan.

A final warrant article would give the school district the right to retain 2.5 percent of the current fiscal year’s net assessment at the end of the year . The School Board could vote to use those funds to reduce the tax rate. They could also use it for unanticipated emergency situations, if approved by the Department of Education.

Residents will be able to vote on warrant articles on March 12. Voting in Greenville will be held at the Mascenic Eduational Center from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., and in New Ipswich at Mascenic Regional High School from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @AshleySaari.

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