Top three issues for ConVal voters
Proposed operating budget: $45,448,301
Default budget: $44,831,807
∎ The budget proposal represents an increase of 2.7 percent over the 2012-2013 budget. It includes funding for a number of new programs, including full-day kindergarten in every elementary school, an additional elementary school nurse, a new elementary school health teacher, a new elementary school computer systems technician, a middle school program to serve emotionally handicapped students and a preschool program at Peterborough Elementary School. The budget also reflects a decrease of $762,000 in state adequacy grant aid, an increase of $654,000 in retirement costs because the state no longer contributes to the retirement program and an increase of $395,000 for out-of-district placements of special education students. A proposal at the district’s Deliberative Session by members of the Selectmen’s Advisory Committee to reduce the operating budget by $1.1 million was defeated, with 175 voters in favor and 347 opposed.
∎ A warrant article supported by a majority of the School Board would replace Article 5 of the district’s Articles of Agreement, which calls for elementary schools in each of the district’s towns except Sharon. The proposed article would set up a process by which the School Board could recommend closing of a school if it was operating substantially below capacity. The process would include a comprehensive closing study, including reviews of cost savings, transportation factors and demographic trends. The initial wording of the article called for any change to be approved by a 2/3 vote of the School Board, but that was amended at the Deliberative Session. The article now reads, “The recommendation of the Board to close a school building must be approved by a 2/3 majority vote of the district meeting.” Because it modifies the Articles of Agreement, the warrant article will need a 2/3 margin to pass.
∎ A petition warrant article offers a different option for modifying Article 5. The article, sponsored by former School Board member Gail Cromwell and Sharon resident Mark Fernald, would replace the sentence that reads “Grades five through eight may be educated at the middle schools in Antrim and Peterborough” with a sentence reading “Beginning with the 2014-2015 school year, the district will operate one middle school which shall be centrally located in Peterborough.” Fernald said at the Deliberative Session that the proposal, which would close Great Brook School in Antrim, was the only viable choice for dealing with declining enrollment, but the article drew considerable opposition from many others at the meeting, who said closing Great Brook would be detrimental not just to Antrim, but to the district as a whole. The petition article will also require a 2/3 margin to pass.