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Jaffrey/Rindge

Proposed budget up $790,551 over 2013-14

One board member objects to 8-percent hike for Rindge

  • School Board members discussed the proposed 2014-2015 Jaffrey-Rindge Cooperative School District Budget at Rindge Memorial School on Monday night.
  • School Board members discussed the proposed 2014-2015 Jaffrey-Rindge Cooperative School District Budget at Rindge Memorial School on Monday night.
  • School Board members discussed the proposed 2014-2015 Jaffrey-Rindge Cooperative School District Budget at Rindge Memorial School on Monday night.
  • School Board members discussed the proposed 2014-2015 Jaffrey-Rindge Cooperative School District Budget at Rindge Memorial School on Monday night.
  • School Board members discussed the proposed 2014-2015 Jaffrey-Rindge Cooperative School District Budget at Rindge Memorial School on Monday night.

RINDGE — Amidst discussion of budget priorities and educational philosophies, Jaffrey-Rindge Cooperative District School Board voted to approve a reduced 2014-2015 school budget proposal during its Monday evening meeting. The original 2014-2015 budget proposal amounted to $26,298,850, a $1,069,099 and 4.24 percent increase over the 2013-2014 school budget. But the decision did not come without spirited discussion.

The new, reduced proposed budget is approximately $300,000 less than the original 2014-2015 budget proposal, standing at $26,019,402, a 3.13 percent, $790,551 increase over the 2013-2014 budget. Budget cuts from the original 2014-2015 proposal include subtracting a $125,000 portion of the school district’s $250,000 wireless upgrade by only upgrading the middle and high schools’ wireless systems; taking away a full-time instructional associate with a $33,318 salary; postponing all of the $57,662 worth of professional development services to another year; and taking out other, smaller costs for items like field trips, technology supplies and advertising.

A lot of the debate was centered around whether the proposed budget should include funds to improve classrooms with new paint and carpet and updating other items like guidance office desks.

School Board Vice Chair Jeffrey Clark-Kevan questioned the advantage of taking away $20,000 from painting and carpeting rooms when, in the end, all the rooms would have to be updated eventually. “I’m not sure withholding money is catching up,” he said. “We have four aging buildings that still need a lot of work to be done.”

Supt. Jim O’Neill pointed out that, not only are building updates important for appearance, but they’re also important for the students morale. “You are sending a message to children,” he said. “It’s important for kids to see that we value [the schools].”

Another concern was whether the board was going about funding the district in the right way. Rindge representative Charles Eicher brought a pie chart to the meeting, showing how much of the budget was directed towards teacher salaries and benefits, and how little funding was directed towards items that would make the school district more attractive, such as facilities and infrastructure, and would encourage more families and students to move there.

Eicher’s big concern, he said, is the poor student-to-teacher ratio currently found in Jaffrey and Rindge, meaning, in his opinion, there are too many teachers for the current enrollment. If it was a better ratio, the district could get closer to a flat budget, he said, by not spending so much on paying educators. “I cannot support this budget in good conscience,” Eicher said, because of the way funding is distributed and the burden it put on local families. “I cannot support an 8-percent tax increase for the people of Rindge,” he said. “That’s the bottom line.”

O’Neill agreed that the district should look into this issue, though it would take time. “It’s a richer analysis that has to be done.”

At-large member Tim Derr of Rindge expressed similar sentiments about the way the district handles its budget. “We need to shake things up.”

Towards the end of the meeting, Rindge Budget Advisor Rick Sirvint wanted the School Board to explain why so much money should be put towards professional development. Sirvint said teachers should understand how to perform the various state-required tasks for public school curriculum, whether it’s assessing, focusing in-depth on a topic, or putting together a lesson plan.

O’Neill responded to Sirvint, saying that professionals deserve the funding for opportunities to continuing learning. “I think education is an environment of professionals, and professionals have a need to learn, change and grow,” O’Neill said. “Times change, practices change. I think learning is a lifelong venture.”

The School Board voted 6-0 on the reduced 2014-2015 budget proposal, with Eicher abstaining. The budget will be presented in a public hearing on Jan. 16, at 6:30 p.m. at Conant High School. As of now, no petition articles have been submitted. Residents have until 4 p.m. on Jan. 14 to do so.

Elodie can be reached by phone at 924-7172 ext. 228, or by email at ereed@ledgertranscript.com. Elodie is also on Twitter @elodie_reed.

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