Residents protest rising costs at WLC budget hearing

  • Residents turned out for the Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative budget hearing to discuss increases in the budget and warrant article requests. Staff photo by Ashley Saari

  • Residents turned out for the Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative budget hearing to discuss increases in the budget and warrant article requests. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • Residents turned out for the Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative budget hearing to discuss increases in the budget and warrant article requests. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • Residents turned out for the Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative budget hearing to discuss increases in the budget and warrant article requests. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 2/10/2020 9:16:04 PM

Residents pushed back against funding increases during the Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative budget hearing on Thursday.

The budget as proposed is $13 million, a 1 percent increase or $131,679 from last year’s adjusted budget of $12.9 million. But as residents who attended Thursday’s meeting pointed out, that percentage only tells a portion of the story.

At the end of 2019, in a special District Meeting, voters approved using an additional $185,000 in state funding to pay for budget shortages, and that increase has been absorbed into the 2020-21 budget. As has about $330,000 which last year was put towards paying off the district’s debt. Last year, that $330,000 was the last payment of a district bond, but this year, the district didn’t reduce the budget to reflect the end of that payment, absorbing it into the budget to pay for other costs.

In addition, the district is asking for significantly more funding in warrant articles this year compared to last year, asking for a total of nearly $395,000, compared to last year’s warrant article requests of $60,000.

Residents expressed dissatisfaction with what they said would be a hard pill to swallow in one year.

“We paid off the bond. It’s like paying off the cost of your house. You should enjoy those savings. Instead, spending went way beyond,” said resident Charlie Post. 

If the budget and all warrant articles pass this year, there is an estimated increase in the Lyndeborough tax rate of 84 cents, or $210.75 for a $250,000 home, which is the average cost of a property in Lyndeborough, and 90 cents in Wilton, or $195.30 for the average Wilton home, valued at $217,000.

Andy Roper of Lyndeborough said he was also disappointed with the recent fiscal management of the district, asking what assurances the district would have that there would not be another request for additional funds this year. 

Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative Budget Committee Chair Leslie Browne said she knows the difficulties facing the taxpayers, too.

“I never thought at the start of the budget season we’d be asking for this much money,” Browne said.

One of the articles on this year’s warrant is a request for $30,000 to conduct a multi-year audit on the district’s spending, in response to budgeting issues discovered when the district was attempting to reconcile a budget shortfall this year. While the majority of the funds were from unexpected expenses in special education and employee insurances, there were also several costs that had simply not been budgeted for. 

Other warrant article requests include additions to the district’s capital reserve accounts for the special education and school maintenance capital reserves.

The special education reserve request is for $100,000. Last year, the district used about $175,000 from the fund due to students with unanticipated needs moving into the district, depleting the fund.

Browne said the current account currently has about $50,000, and the district plans to request funds to replenish the account for at least the next few years. 

The request for the maintenance reserve is $150,000. Browne said that originally, the district planned to use the funds saved by retiring debt to make significant contributions to the maintenance fund for future projects, including continuing to resurface the roof and update the bathrooms at the high school and replace the high school dishwasher this year. With the debt payment being absorbed into the proposed budget, Brown said $150,000 was the “minimum amount” the Budget Committee and School Board could request without falling too far behind in its maintenance plans. 

 

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


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