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Articles of agreement reviewed

WILTON — Wilton and Lyndeborough voters will have the opportunity to weigh in on changes to the school district’s articles of agreement, tonight — changes which hold the key to the district’s hopes to move forward with an $8.25 million plan to renovate and consolidate the two towns’ elementary schools.

The articles of agreement are one of the issues that will have to be addressed before the district can move forward with consolidating the elementary schools. The district’s plan is to renovate Lyndeborough Central School to turn it into a SAU office and house the preschool and kindergarten classes for both towns. An addition would be put onto Florence Rideout Elementary School that would make the school large enough to house the first through fifth grades for both towns. Tonight, the district will hold a public hearing on the proposed amendments to the district’s articles of agreement, all of which will be voted upon during the district meeting on March 7.

Article five on the district warrant addresses all of the proposed amendments. The first is an amendment the district discussed last year — to give the School Board the authority to assign or reassign students to schools. Last year, the board proposed a similar article, with an eye towards being able to combine grades at one school or another, in order to save costs on staffing when enrollment is low by combining classes.

Another proposed amendment to the articles would change the way capital improvement and operating costs at the elementary schools are paid for. Currently, each town is culpable for the capital and operating expenses for their own elementary schools. The amendment would change the apportionment formula so that all capital and operating expensed would be based 50 percent on the average daily membership of students from each town and 50 percent on the equalized valuation of each town, the same as the current formula for expenses at the shared middle and high school.

The School Board has also proposed to add a new article to the current articles of agreement, which would provide a separate formula for apportionment of the capital expenses related to the amortization of the bond issue to fund the renovations to both elementary schools and the addition to Florence Rideout Elementary School. Lyndeborough would pay $96,564 in each fiscal year for the 30 years of the bond, with Wilton paying the remaining balance of the bond payment.

According to Article four on the district warrant, if the consolidation, renovations and addition are approved by voters, the district will be seeking bonds or notes in the sum of $8,250,000. The first year’s payment, which would be raised this year, would be $260,907, meaning Wilton would pay $164,343 and Lyndeborough $96,564.

School Board Chair Geoff Brock noted that the bond approval and the amendments to the articles of agreement are contingent — even if the bond passes, voters still need to adopt the new articles of agreement in order for the project to move forward, he said in an interview Monday. In order to fully consolidate the district and capitalize on the efficiencies and cost savings that are available through that, the new articles are necessary, he said.

Should the district fail to obtain the two-thirds vote required to either obtain the bonds needed for the renovation and additions, or the two-thirds vote required to change the articles of agreement, a separate article seeks to raise $250,000 to make building improvements at Florence Rideout. The extensive renovation needs at Florence Rideout was one of the driving forces behind the desire to consolidate the schools. If the bond to support consolidating the elementary schools is approved, the building needs at Florence Rideout will be addressed during the renovation, or eliminated when the part of the building built in the 1960s, where most of the problems are, is replaced with the new three-story addition. Florence Rideout needs about $2.7 million in renovations over the next 10 years, if the renovations aren’t taken up, Brock said.

The hearing on the articles of agreement will be held tonight at 6:30 p.m. at the Lyndeborough Central School. District Meeting will be held on March 7 at 7 p.m. in the WLC gym.

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