Special Jaffrey-Rindge meeting approves additional funding for facilities work

School Board Vice Chair Charlie Eicher speaks for allowing additional adequacy funding to be returned to taxpayers.

School Board Vice Chair Charlie Eicher speaks for allowing additional adequacy funding to be returned to taxpayers. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI—

Resident Nathan Flowers speaks on the need for a well-maintained learning environment.

Resident Nathan Flowers speaks on the need for a well-maintained learning environment. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI—

Resident Nathan Flowers speaks on the need for a well-maintained learning environment.

Resident Nathan Flowers speaks on the need for a well-maintained learning environment. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI

Jaffrey Select Board Chair Franklin Sterling speaks on the rising pressure of school taxes.

Jaffrey Select Board Chair Franklin Sterling speaks on the rising pressure of school taxes. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI—

By ASHLEY SAARI

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Published: 10-04-2023 1:34 PM

During a special district meeting on Monday, voters in the Jaffrey-Rindge School District approved using $252,166 from an unanticipated increase in the district’s state adequacy funding for facility improvements in the district.

Typically, the Jaffrey-Rindge district meeting is held entirely via ballot, but for this special meeting, the matter was decided in person by about 40 residents – 25 from Rindge and 15 from Jaffrey. Moderator Bob Schaumann declared the vote in the affirmative by a show of hands, following about a half-hour of discussion on the subject, where residents voiced opinions on both sides of the issue.

At the outset of the meeting, following an audience question, School Board member John McCarthy clarified that the district would receive the funds regardless of the vote. If the voters agreed with the article, the funds would be spent on facility maintenance items that had been trimmed from this year’s budget. If voters turned it down, the funds would be added to the general fund and returned to taxpayers at the end of the year.

McCarthy said that while this year’s budget was approved and included facilities work, there were items that need to be addressed that weren’t included in this year’s budget, in an effort to control costs. During a School Board meeting on Sept. 25, members discussed using the funds for flooring and painting projects and for upgrades to the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system, according to meeting minutes.

“These are old schools,” McCarthy said. “There are still a lot of things that need to be repaired, replaced and brought up to a modern standard.”

Some voters who attended pointed to rising school taxes, particularly in the last few years, saying that the school’s current budget was adequate and that taxpayers needed a break. Estimates by the district suggest that the impact of returning the funds to taxpayers would be about a $57.89 savings for Jaffrey residents and a $44.63 savings for Rindge residents on a property valued at $250,000.

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Charlie Eicher, vice chair of the School Board, spoke against using the  funds for facilities. He and School Board member Daisy Hawlk were the two dissenting votes when the board recommended the article. Eicher cited three main reasons – that there was no documented plan presented to voters, only “verbal possibilities;” that the district already had more than the $250,000 in reserves if there were projects that needed to be addressed; and that the funding would give taxpayers a break, noting that while the individual savings would average around $50, “every penny counts.”

Jaffrey Select Board Chair Franklin Sterling also spoke of the rising school portion of the tax, saying the increase in the district’s tax had risen much more sharply than the town’s portion.

“Please vote no to this. I think we need some relief here,” Sterling said.

Other voters said the funds could make a large, lasting difference as part of a facilities project, rather than a one-time, relatively small cut on a tax bill. Nathan Flowers of Jaffrey said students should have a well-maintained environment to learn in, saying that people put in more effort when they are in an environment that is shown care.

“I think it should go through,” he said.

Leslie McLean also spoke in favor of passing the article, saying that the impact to each individual household in tax savings would be quite small, but when put toward facilities, the money could make a substantial and long-lasting change.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 603-924-7172, Ext. 244, or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on X @AshleySaariMLT.