Motion to cut proposed budget turned down

Board will recommend plan that includes 1 percent increase; debate over cuts focuses on annual surplus and need for flexibility

PETERBOROUGH — ConVal School Board members voted to recommend a gross operating budget of $45,872,410 for 2014-2015 on Tuesday, after turning down a motion from Greenfield board member Myron Steere to reduce the budget by $425,000.

The recommended budget is a 1 percent increase over last year’s approved budget of $45,448,301.

In making his recommendation for a cut, Steere said the district has consistently ended the year with an significant unreserved fund balance or surplus. Last year, he said, about $639,000 was available. He said a $425,000 cut would still leave enough money at the end of the year to fund contributions to the district’s special education trust fund and building capital reserve fund.

Steere said the cut would result in a proposed gross budget that’s lower than last year’s budget.

“It will make it easier to sell the budget to voters,” Steere said.

After board chair Butch Estey of Peterborough asked what items would need to be cut in order to reach the lower number, board member Rich Cahoon of Antrim said the lines for teacher salaries and benefits could be reduced, because the actual expenses for salaries have consistently been lower than budgeted, due to retiring teachers being replaced by lower-cost newcomers.

“What Myron’s proposing is a balancing of risk,” Cahoon said.

Erik Thibault of Peterborough said he would not want to see the budget so tight that a hiring decision on a new teacher would come down to how much the person would cost.

Stewart Brock of Francestown said the board would need to ask administrators where cuts could be made.

“It this would impact the classroom, I couldn’t vote for it,” Brock said.

Matt Craig of Sharon also spoke against the proposal.

“If the money’s not spent, we can return it to the taxpayers,” Craig said. “We don’t have a big bag of gold that we sit on.”

After Estey called for a vote, the board turned down Steere’s motion. Steere, Cahoon, Fiona Tibbetts of Dublin and David Martz of Temple voted to make the cut, but six board members — Craig, Brock, Thibault, Linda Quintanilha of Bennington, Pierce Rigrod of Hancock and Joel Green of Peterborough — were opposed.

At Estey’s suggestion, the board then took on vote on whether to support the $45,872,410 budget, which the board and administration had put together during a series of meetings at the end of 2013. The board approved a motion of support, by a 7-3 margin, with Steere, Tibbetts and Martz casting the dissenting votes.

On Tuesday, the board will hold its public hearing on the budget, at 6 p.m. in the board room at the SAU office at South Meadow School.

Dave Anderson can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 233 or He’s on Twitter at @DaveAndersonMLT.

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