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J-R teaching jobs may be cut

In the wake of the Jaffrey-Rindge School District budget’s failure to pass muster with voters, teaching positions could be in jeopardy, according to School Superintendent James O’Neill.

Rindge voters made the difference, voting 604 to 825 against the proposed budget of $26,019,402.

Jaffrey voters supported the budget, with 347 in favor and 228 opposed.

As a result of the vote, the district will operate next year under a default budget of $25,541,923.

After the School Board’s March 3 meeting, O’Neill and Board Chair Dan Whitney said they’re not sure how the $477,479 difference will be made up.

On Wednesday, O’Neill said the School Board must now meet to discuss how to meet the default budget and submit a plan to the state before March 31.

“We will be working as a team with the School Board, administrators and teachers,” said O’Neill. “We only have three weeks to do this.”

Everyone involved in the process will be talking, he added, and looking at everything in the budget to make the right cuts.

“It won’t be any one place,” he said. “We have to make prioritized decisions.”

He mentioned that some cuts would be made in staffing positions, but that would not be the only area considered.

“The most powerful determinant of student success is teachers,” said O’Neill.

In addition to failing to pass the increase of nearly half a million dollars, voters turned down Article 3, a $225,317 agreement between the district and the Jaffrey-Rindge Education Association, — the teachers’ union — which called for increases in salaries and benefits for district educators.

The high voter turnout in Rindge and significantly lower turnout in Jaffrey also impacted the teacher contract. The contract passed in Jaffrey, 351 to 129, but failed in Rindge, 608 to 818.

Despite voting to turn down the increase of salary and benefits for teachers, residents approved Article 4, allowing the School Board to hold a special session to address the costs of the agreement in the event that it was turned down.

Voters were in support of the remaining six articles that the Board recommended.

Voters approved Article 5 to place$200,000 into the capital reserve fund. The allowance allows for the renovation and maintenance of buildings, and the purchase of capital equipment in the school district.

Article 6, also approved, allows the school district to use $50,000 to purchase property abutting school lands. That land would be added to the properties of the Jaffrey-Rindge Middle School, Conant High School, the Rindge Memorial School, and Jaffrey Grade School.

The district’s after school programs were supported at the polls, with 58 percent of voters approving Article 7, which authorized the district to create a non-lapsing Extended Day Revolving Fund. Money raised or given to the program can be carried from one fiscal year to the next. In the past, any money left in the programs budget reverted to the general fund, which was an issue since the Extended Day program is funded entirely by a grant from the N. H. Department of Education. The grant is expiring in 2016.

“We are delighted that the voters chose to approve Article 7,” said Kathleen Batchelder, director of the Extended Day Program, in an email Wednesday. “This means we can now work on a strategy to have the program become fiscally self-sustaining.”

With the fund in place, Batchelder said, the program will be able to raise money, pursue additional grants, and accept contributions that it did not have ability to receive before.

“Part of the plan for the EDP has always been to work to become sustainable if the original grant disappears,” wrote Batchelder. “Instead of waiting until grant funding is no longer available, the passing of this article gives us a head start.”

Regarding the default school budget and impending cuts to programs, positions and budgets, Batchelder said she’s hopeful that the EDP will be able to step in to help district staff in supporting student needs.

“There will be come hard conversations taking place with the School Board members and administration, as to where and how the cuts are made in order to have the least impact on children and their education,” said Batchelder. “I believe it will be a difficult road moving forward as the dollar amount is so significant.”

Residents voted to pass Article 8 which asked to end several capital reserve funds and a trust fund, and transfer the money into the general fund.

Article 9 asked voters for permission to accept gifts and donations of real or personal property on behalf of the district and to be voted by the district. That vote passed with 71 percent of resident from Jaffrey and Rindge in favor.

The ballot included two petition articles which were both voted down. Article 10 called for voters to approve $80,000 to bring back the District’s School Resource Officer Program. The School Board unanimously voted against recommending the article and residents in both Jaffrey and Rindge voted in line with the Board.

Article 11, submitted by petition, called for the district to establish an interscholastic hockey program and failed with 41.66 percent of voters in favor, and 52.53 percent opposed, a difference of 10.68 percent.

The article also called for voters to approve $22,000 to pay for fifty percent of the program’s estimated cost, and the creation of a non-lapsing Hockey Athletic Revolving Fund, which would be filled with money raised by the program.

In addition to voting on articles there was an open School Board seat from Jaffrey, which was filled by write-in candidate Marsha Griffin. Current School Board member Charles Eicher of Rindge was voted in for another three-year term.

The meeting to discuss the default budget will be held Monday at 7 p.m., at Conant High School.

Hayden James can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 228 or hjames@ledgertranscript.com.

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