School Board divided over proposed cut

  • Jaffrey-Rindge School Board member Alison Bergeron did not vote in favor of two warrant articles during Thursday’s budget hearing: the budget and an article to change the district’s apportionment formula.  Ledger-Transcript file photo

  • Jaffrey-Rindge school board member Jeff Clark-Kevan said Thursday that he could not support the proposed budget as it calls for the elimination of a principal at the middle/high school.  Ledger-Transcript file photo

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Monday, January 15, 2018 5:31PM

Two members of the Jaffrey-Rindge School Board have voted against this year’s $25.4 million proposed operating budget, as it calls for the elimination of a principal position at the district’s middle/high school level. 

Board members Jeff Clark-Kevan and Alison Bergeron did not vote in favor of recommending the district’s budget-related warrant article during Thursday’s budget hearing. 

Both Clark-Kevan and Bergeron felt this was not the year to be proposing a reduction in administration, given that the board recently approved a new strategic design for the district – a plan that is said to take three to five years to fully implement. 

“I don’t see that a reduction in administrators this year makes sense,” said Clark-Kevan. “We are trying to get teachers more preparation and administrative time.”

Rindge resident Al Lefebvre said the cut presented – a reduction of about $217,000 between a principal and supporting secretary – was good to see in the budget, but he was concerned that there could be a future budget spike should the district decide to bring the position back in the future. 

Superintendent Reuben Duncan said Thursday that it might seem odd to present a cut during a time where the district has committed to implement a large strategic plan, but the reduction of a principal will allow for more fluidity and communication.

Duncan said there should be an increased of administration in the middle and high school in the near future, as the district is planning to move the SAU 47 office into the middle school.

“This is much better for the district’s future in the long run,” said Duncan. “I believe this will be successful.”

Currently, there is a principal and assistant principal at the middle school and the high school. The shift would create one principal to preside over both schools, with one assistant principal in charge of curriculum, instruction, and assessment and the other in charge of safety and culture.

This year’s proposed operating budget comes in at $25,385,854, a .05-percent decrease over last year’s approved total of $25,397,600. This year’s default budget is $25,851,720. 

Notable changes include the principal reduction, the reduction of two custodians, the reduction of a librarian at the middle/high school, the reduction of a special education/court liaison, the replacement of a guidance counselor at the middle/high school with a social worker/family therapist, increasing a half-time music teacher at the middle/high school to full-time, and the reduction of a .5 FTE nurse at the middle/high school. 

Two members of the board also did not recommend the warrant article dealing with a change to the district’s apportionment formula.

As has been in the case with past votes, Bergeron (an at-large board member), and John McCarthy (representing Jaffrey) did not endorse the article. 

The article, if passed by a two-thirds majority, would eliminate equalized property value from the district’s apportionment formula – a 50/50 mix of each towns’ property value and average student count. 

The change would be phased over a five year period, beginning with fiscal year 2020. At the end of the change, it is estimated that Rindge will see a tax rate reduction of $1.70 per thousand, while Jaffrey will see an increase of $2.20 over the same period. 

No comments were made during the hearing in support or opposition to the apportionment change, although there was talk about whether a chart should be included on the warrant to better illustrate the estimate tax rate change. It was decided to put a chart in the voters guide. 

One petition warrant article has been included on the ballot, one that asks the district to change the super majority required to change the articles of agreement from two-thirds to three-fifths. 

Petitioner Roberta Oeser told the school board and crowd of about 15 in attendance that the intent of the petition was to align the super majority with that of bond votes or the super majority required in an SB2 town. 

The board elected not to take a vote on the petition article.

All other warrant articles – electing school district officers, approving cost-related items for the collective bargaining agreement between the district and the Jaffrey-Rindge Support Staff Association, authorizing a special meeting to address cost-related items in the CBA should the previous article not pass, making “house keeping” changes to the articles of agreement, and using any surplus fund balance to add $150,000 to the district’s building maintenance capital reserve account and $100,000 to the district’s special education contingency fund – were given unanimous support from the school board.

Nicholas Handy can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or nhandy@ledgertranscript.com. He is also on Twitter @nhandyMLT.