ConVal passes the budget, says no to funding formula and added buses

  • Roger Babcock checks in at the polls in Peterborough on Tuesday. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • Voting at the polls in Peterborough for ConVal School District articles on Tuesday, March 12. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • Voting at the polls in Peterborough for ConVal School District articles on Tuesday, March 12. Staff photo by Ben Conant

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 3/13/2019 5:20:05 PM

ConVal voters supported the school district’s budget and teachers’ contract at the polls on Tuesday but voted down raising money for additional bus routes and a funding formula change.

The proposed $48,128,007 operating budget received 59 percent of the vote throughout the district and received more than 50 percent of the vote in every town except for Greenfield and Sharon.

“I want to support the schools, that's my basic thing. I want to support the schools, the teachers, there are some big cuts that will happen if the budget doesn't pass, so I want to make sure those programs don't get cut,” Peterborough resident Jen Bonsu-Anane said. “I think what's shortsighted is thinking that we don't have to prepare kids for the future, that educating our young people is not really a priority.”

Many in the community were concerned about whether the operating budget would pass, as the default budget was $1.25 million lower and would require cuts to a number of district programs including the ConVal-Conant hockey teams.

“It went from a mediocre day to an outstanding day,” said Scott Tracy, head coach of the boys’ team, during an interview Wednesday. “It’s got to be a miracle. It was looking very grim [for the hockey teams.]”

Voters overwhelmingly defeated an article that proposed raising $808,000 to add bus routes so the district could start middle and high school an hour later.

“I have contradictory feelings because I know high school students like to sleep late, but I also believe in conserving fuel for environmental reasons,” Hancock resident Robin Lohmiller.

Only 33 percent of voters supported the article, with no town in favor of the article’s adoption.

“Something has to be done, retirees are really hurting,” Hancock resident Diane Loomis said. “Everything in there had a dollar sign attached. We have to be more responsible.”

Many at the polls said the cost of the proposal was too much, especially given the rising budget.

“I can’t afford it anymore,” Bennington resident Deb Ash said. “If I did to my clients what the school district is doing, I wouldn’t have any clients.”

Voters also were not in favor of the proposed funding formula change.

“The funding formula seems like just a temporary solution,” Antrim resident Pam Bagloe said. 

Only 44 percent of voters supported the article throughout the district.

“The only one I liked was the idea of changing the funding formula,” Antrim resident Doug Crafts said. “I like it because of the tax stabilization benefits.”

The article received over 50 percent support in Antrim, Bennington, Greenfield, and Peterborough, but received less than 33 percent support in the other towns. 

“It was a strong yes for me,” Bennington resident Amy Hardwick said, of the funding formula article. “I think the appropriation seemed more fair.”

One of two petition articles on the ballot passed, while the other failed.

Nearly 80 percent of school district voters approved a petition article that requires the school board to submit analysis and implementation plan detailing the financial, educational, and social impacts that any school closure would have on students and towns in the district. 

The article received unanimous support from the school board and must be submitted to voters prior to proposing any school closure in the school district. 

In contrast, only 36 percent of voters supported a petition article asking the school board and district administration to prepare a detailed proposal to restructure the school district so there are right K-6 elementary schools and one high school for the other grades. 

The collective bargaining agreement between the ConVal Education Association and the school district was approved by a vote of 2473 to 1570, with all towns approving the two-year agreement. 

Warrant articles asking to add money from the June 30 fund balance were all passed: up to $200,000 for the Special Education Reserve Trust Fund, up to $250,000 for the Contoocook Valley School District Building Capital Reserve Fund, up to $100,000 for the Equipment Capital Reserve Fund, and up to $50,000 for the Health Trust Fund. 

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


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