School Board wants options

Plan to move students requires change to Articles of Agreement

LYNDEBOROUGH — After a short public hearing on Wednesday night about proposed amendments to the Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative School District’s Articles of Agreement, the amendments will appear on the ballot at this year’s district meeting. Passing the amendments will be half of the process required for approval of a $8.25 million proposal renovate the elementary schools in both Wilton and Lyndeborough.

School Board member Harry Dailey told a sparse group of residents that the amendment has several parts. The first would allow the School Board to have authority over all of the grades, which would allow them to move grades as they saw fit. In the past, the School Board has only had this ability with the higher grades, with the Articles of Agreement providing that elementary students in each town would be taught in their individual elementary schools.

Last year, the board presented a similar article, which failed to pass by the required two-thirds vote at district meeting. Dailey said he believed part of the reason the amendment had failed last year was that voters didn’t have a clear view of what the School Board wished to do with the amendment. This year, there is a clear plan that has been communicated — to consolidate grades 1 though 5 at Florence Rideout Elementary School in Wilton — and Dailey said he hoped that would make the difference.

If passed, the amendment would also extend the way the district pays for capital expenses — anything over $20,000 — for its elementary schools. Currently, each town is responsible for capital expenses to do with its own individual elementary schools. Costs at the middle and high school are split in a formula that has consistently meant Wilton pays 70 percent of the cost, while Lyndeborough picks up the remaining 30 percent. Under the proposed amendment, that formula would apply to future capital expenses related to the new consolidated elementary school.

The third piece of the proposed amendment addresses how Lyndeborough would be responsible for payments for the renovations and a new three-story addition at Florence Rideout Elementary School, and renovations at Lyndeborough Central School to turn it into a combined housing space for the SAU office and pre-school and kindergarten.

The intent, said Dailey, is to use cost savings resulting from the consolidation to pay for the majority of the 30-year $8.25 million bond, with an interest rate of 5.5 percent. Including the 5.5 percent interest, payback will be $15.4 million dollars.

In the case of Lyndeborough, the anticipated cost savings from consolidation will be $96,564 per year. The proposed amendment to the Articles of Agreement would specify that Lyndeborough’s portion of the bond payment would be $96,564 for all 30 years of the bond, so that the savings would simply cancel out the cost for the life of the bond. This will mean that Lyndeborough will pay $2.9 million over 30 years, and Wilton will pay $12.5 million.

Lyndeborough resident Jessie Salisbury noted that there was a perception among some Lyndeborough residents that Wilton had put off repairs to its own school for several years, and now that the need for repairs was critical, Wilton expected Lyndeborough to help pay for it.

Dailey responded that the School Board was aware that the needed repairs at Florence Rideout Elementary School are a driving factor in the consolidation, which is why Wilton would be paying a larger portion of the bond. Usually, for cooperative payments, the split is approximately 70-30 with Wilton paying the larger share: For this bond, it will be closer to 85-15, Dailey said. Also, in the past, when the district had turned down funds for renovations at Florence Rideout, it would have been a huge tax impact to the voters in Wilton, because there were no anticipated cost savings. Now, there will be savings to offset to costs, which will keep the tax impact low, he said.

In the first year, while construction is being completed and there are no anticipated cost savings, the district will only be making payments of interest, said Dailey.

The District Meeting will be held on March 7 at 7 p.m. at the Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative Middle and High School. District voting to elect School Board members and other officials will be held on March 11, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Wilton Town Hall and from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Lyndeborough Old Town Hall, also known as Center Hall.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ex. 244, or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaari.

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