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ConVal school board divided on two warrant article recommendations

  • ConVal School Board vice chair Rich Cahoon, right, discusses a petition article that if passed would ask the district to prepare a detailed proposal to consolidate the district into 8 K-6 elementary schools and one 7-12 middle/high school while board chair Myron Steere listens.  Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • ConVal Superintendent Kimberly Rizzo Saunders explains the proposed operating budget during a public hearing on Tuesday.  Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • ConVal Superintendent Kimberly Rizzo Saunders explains the proposed operating budget during a public hearing on Tuesday.  Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Wednesday, January 09, 2019 11:33AM

The ConVal School Board is divided on the recommendation of two warrant articles – one that would have the middle and high school to start one hour later and another to change the district’s funding formula.

The board voted 6-5 to recommend each warrant article during a meeting on Tuesday night.

Additionally, the board voted 1-10 to not recommend a petition warrant article asking the board and district administration to prepare a detailed proposal to restructure the school district with eight K-6 elementary schools and a high school to serve grades 7-12 by Dec. 1.

“This basically monopolizes the administrations time all the way through Dec. 1,” vice chairman Rich Cahoon of Antrim said. “I have never seen anything from our administration that calls for putting sixth grade back in the elementary schools, never.”

Article 4, as it is written in the draft warrant, aims to change the district’s funding formula via its articles of agreement.

The current formula is a 50-50 mix of each town’s average daily membership and equalized property value. If passed by a two-thirds majority, the formula would be 40 percent average daily membership and 60 percent equalized property values.

The article is being proposed instead of two articles that were eliminated from the warrant last week – one looking to phase in a consolidation plan from 11 schools in the district to five and another that would have created a surcharge for schools in the district with less than 65 students.

Article 5 on the draft warrant asks voter to raise $808,000 to add additional bus routes to create a single tier bussing system. The system would allow all students in the district to go to school at the same time, with middle and high school students starting their day about an hour later than years past.

“I think because it is a significant increase and change, we wanted to make sure the legislative body had a chance to weigh in,” Superintendent Kimberly Rizzo Saunders said during an interview Monday.

The board was more supportive of a second petition warrant article filed this year – one that if passed would require the board to submit a “comprehensive analysis and implementation plan detailing the financial, educational and social impacts that any school closure might have on both students and towns” to district voters prior to proposing any school closures in the district.

“We were prepared to do all these studies, but the board itself kicked itself in the rear end by saying, ‘Oh we aren’t going to put it on there so we aren’t going to do the study,” board chairman Myron Steere of Greenfield said. “We should blame ourselves for being in this position.”

There was little conversation about the proposed operating budget this year, despite it being the largest proposed percentage increase since the 2013-14 school year.

This year’s proposed operating budget is $45,906,471.67, which is 1.87 percent or $840,608.94 higher than last year’s approved total.

The largest drivers of the budget this year are employee benefits and professional services, which account for over $1 million in increases.

Saunders said the district’s overall assessment is up 4.71 percent over last year as revenue is down in all areas.

Concerns were brought up Tuesday about the district’s default budget being $1.25 million lower than the district’s proposed gross budget.

“I would please ask you to understand that the $1.25 million does not come out in contracts, paper and staples,” Saunders said. “It will mean that we will have to cut programs.”

 

Nicholas Handy can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or nhandy@ledgertranscript.com.