Friday, February 10, 2012

Winchester divided over spending

By Abby Spegman Sentinel Staff

WINCHESTER — Voters at Thursday’s deliberative session appeared to take sides — for school spending on the left, for lower taxes on the right.
Whenever someone said something in support of the school, the left side of the Winchester School gymnasium seemed to clap a little louder. Whenever someone said something in line with budget cuts and keeping the tax rate down, the right clapped louder.
When the vote to cut the budget was announced, it was the right that was cheering.
Voters at the Winchester School District deliberative session voted 102-71 to cut the district’s budget to $10,835,479. That’s down from the school board’s recommendation of $11,510,850, which is up 3.4 percent from the current year.
The default budget is $11,554,845.
The budget was one of two articles amended at Thursday’s session, ending months of back and forth between the town’s budget committee and the school board.
It’s usually the budget committee’s recommendation that goes before voters, but the school board charged that committee did not follow proper procedure this year, invalidating its budget recommendation of $9,197,777.
The district’s attorney, Matthew H. Upton of Portsmouth, said the state’s Department of Revenue Administration agreed the school board’s budget should appear on the warrant since the budget committee never discussed revenue or the warrant articles at a public hearing.
Brian D. Moser, budget committee chairman, disagreed and asked to see that decision in writing.
“The budget committee did its job,” he said.
Richard Horton, a member of the budget committee who is running for school board, made the motion to cut the budget. He said the school board in years past has over-budgeted for certain accounts, including tuition to Keene High School and for utilities at the school.
Paring those down, along with cutting administrators’ time and salaries, would bring the tax rate down, Horton said.
The school board’s budget would “tax us right out of our home,” said Marcia H. Young, who said she is disabled and recently widowed.
“We have to think of the people in this town who are trying to survive,” she added.
Last year the school portion of the tax rate rose $3.50 per $1,000 of assessed value.
The district ran a deficit last year of nearly $327,000 after it overspent on areas including teacher salaries, health benefits, tuition to Keene and special education transportation, according to the district.
But others at Thursday’s session said it was irresponsible to not leave a cushion in the budget in case more students move into the district.
“Kids come and go constantly and unfortunately they arrive more then they leave,” said school board member Kevan Whippie.
As for pay cuts for administrators, these have not been investigated and should not be done in “a random, emotional way,” said resident Christopher J. Thompson.
But William McGrath, who is also running for school board, said when he was on the committee that looked at withdrawing from N.H. School Administrative Unit 38 and forming a new unit for the district, that committee expected lower salaries. He suggested some positions were given to people and not advertised at lower rates.
Christine E. Wallace garnered applause from the right when she compared the district’s spending to private companies that are being forced to scale back.
“We’re all hurting. We have to have responsible discussions and we have to cut the budget,” she said.
“In this economy, increases don’t make sense.”
But, as one woman reminded the crowd, voters approve a total budget number and it is up to the school board to spend where it likes. Administration may not be cut in the end, she said.
The only other article amended at the session was a petition article asking the district to form a committee to study withdrawing students from Keene High School and reopening Thayer High School, which closed in 2005. The article also asks for $5,000 to hire an economist to look at the cost.
That figure was cut to $1 in a 41-21 vote. (After the budget vote there was small exodus.) Selectmen Chairman Sherman Tedford made that motion, saying $5,000 was too much to spend this year.
But discussion was not limited to the amendments.
The warrant also asks voters to do away with the budget committee’s role in the school district budget.
School board Chairwoman Colleen M. Duquette said this year showed the budget committee does not have the school in mind, at one point setting the budget at $8 million, which school officials said was impossibly low.
“They want to dismantle our school,” she said.
Others spoke in support of the budget committee, saying it’s meant to provide a check on the school board and its spending.
Another petition article would give the budget committee the power to set the default budget.
Voting will takes place March 13 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Winchester Town Hall.

Abby Spegman can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1409, or


Anonymous said...

Now we need to get people elected to the school board that will make the right cuts... administration... not teachers!

Anonymous said...

We have a dynamite slate of candidates running for the school board. With the help of the budget committee, this will be a good year for fiscal responsibility. Don't re-vote in our major problem.

Jason Cardinale said...

We need to cut the fat at the top. If we cut teachers, that will affect our kids. We also can not let the budget committee go away, we need the checks and balance that they provide. The other thing I would love to see is the "bottom line budget" to go away. Teachers need to band together and get some new people on school board so we can make the changes that we need to and get our school back on the right track!!

Anonymous said...

You need to revisit the number of educators that you have in the system. You need quality not quanity! Not every student that has an IEP needs a 1 on 1 para. Pay attention people and watch the bottom line. There are still school board members that have no clue where the money is going. This could also be a year where we run lean and mean. If we have the ELM center then we certainly can not pay for ACCESS. We can only afford one-make up my mind!

Jenna said...

Last night was a good start, now everyone has to show up in March at the poles and continue the effort and continue to get involved. This blog and the few people behind it and our budget committee continue to fight for all of us. Now it's time that all of us get up off of our sofas and out from behind our keyboards and continue to push for change and a better town to live in for everyone. I am so proud of everyone that showed up last night and stood up to the school board and voted against their increases. We all need to keep it up.

Anonymous said...

Cut ACCESS for the ELM Center????? Wrong!!!!! ACCESS is grant funded and the ELM Center offers nothing these days.

curious said...

If the ELMMC offers nothing then why are we taxpayers shelling out 50k a year to support it? Sounds like we may be being taken for fools by the selectmen each year. Exactly where does this 50 thousand go each year? Salaries?

Anonymous said...

The 10.8 sounds realistic but there is no guarantee that the cuts will come from the sau. Very risky.

Christine said...

Risky? What are u talking about? If Dr. Dassau and his cronies on the school board cut teachers or services for sped and regular students then all of the crap they have been feeding us flies right back into all of their faces. If they are as concerned about our kids as they say then they will do the right thing. Only thing at risk is their jobs. Ball's in their court now.

Anonymous said...

We can only hope that the cuts will come from the right areas. I have been hearing that they will not come from the SAU. Thats why we need to change the school board staff. Election coming up. Vote some new members in. We need to cut from the top, and not teachers. Also access is grant funded, and they have also worked to get grants for other things like the garden project as well as others to take that funding out of the budget.

Anonymous said...

the school is broken. Fire the entire administration, disband this school board, figure out if the principle or vice principle can do the job better then cut the other one and put all teachers on notice raise the testing scores or look for another job.
this may sound tough and mean but our school needs to start all over.

Rick Horton said...

At deliberative we provided the voters with a document that outlines where the cuts should be made. This was also accompanied by a Line by line suggestion that can be put on the MS27.

If you look closely even though there are cuts there was a program added. Natures Classroom which the School Board decided to remove and use those funds for to cover other expenditures.

It is now up to the School Board to decide where the cuts are to be made. I strongly suggest we all continue to hold them accountable for their actions. If they decide to cut teachers or programs that is their decision not the proposed $10.8m budget.

There are lots of comments of how we arrived at this number and the role of the Budget Committee in this budget. Can we please just move forward and support this Tax cut? We have all put alot of time and effort into what happened on Thursday evening. Lets just be happy we finally made a difference.

Since I moved to this town I have never seen what happened at deliberative happen. Finally we had enough support to put a responsible budget on the ballot. I have heard even some teachers voted for the lower budget.

Now they are nervous that the School Board will cut teachers and programs. I think we are all nervous that they will make cuts to our regular ed students programs and they will suffer instead of the School Board thinking outside the box and looking for ways to trim the Administration.

In 2011 we motioned for an amendment to the $11.1m budget. The amendment was for $10.5 million. This amendment was made by Brian Moser and myself. It was the Budget committees number that was proposed by Ken Gardner in our work sessions. This budget was defeated and the School Boards $11.1 million went to the ballot.

The budget passed and we saw a tax increase of $3.50 from the school portion. Even with this increased budget the School Board had to cut teachers and programs. The proposed $10.5 million budget cut from the Adminitstration.

It is true we need to replace some people on the School Board. There are 2 seat open. We need some new people on that board and there are quite a few candidates running.

In regards to the Budget Committee there are even more running for the 3 seats that are available. We have some fire behind the Budget Committee now as the the perception is the proposed budget came from them. I feel confident in saying that the Budget Committee is here to stay and will have a stronger roll in everything that happens in the future.

Lastly, do not attack me for my political views. We can agree to disagree. I respect everyones opinion and do my best to fight for what I believe.

Anonymous said...

Here's an idea if we can write in people on a ballot why not write in budgets? write in the 9.1 m budget for the will never make us believe the school cant function on that!

Anonymous said...

We cannot blame the teacher for NECAP scores etc. Those tests are 2 days out of 180 where students sit down in November and do the test not really understanding the purpose.
Ask the kids. Most of them hate the test and just fill in circles to get it down.
I know when I had to do them and other standardized tests for higher ed, they did not predict anything. I did not do well on tests and I did awesome in college and beyond. Those tests truly have no bearing on the knowledge of most of the kids.
My child did horrible, I was upset at first, then asked why. She told me she just filled in circles and she got tired of sitting there for so long. She is a straight A student! That test was totally inaccurate and had to bearing on the teachers ability to teach or her getting into college later.
Some of the smartest people on the planet did not need standardized testing scores to prove they could make something of themselves.

disgusted mom said...

I don't for one minute believe anything you have written and doubt you even have a daughter in our school system. My kids, all four of them tell me what you said is not true, that they all try their hardest to pass these tests because of the whispers and the finger pointing and it is the teachers fault for not preparing them.They have told me that some teachers even are saying these test results are not something for them to worry about, that they will pass and graduate and that they will be just as smart if not smarter than their peers at Keene. I find this troubling and believe my children over someone who wouldn't put their real name on their comments. When you do, I'll do likewise but until I see some real names on here sign me;

Anonymous said...

Disgusted mom... i said most kids and i am glad your kids did well. What i am trying to point out are that our kids are more than just a standardized test score. I expect my daughter to be more than that. She is a senior at khs and off to college. They looked at her as a whole not just a test score. Wow relax. It is my opinion which i am entitled to just like you.

Anonymous said...

So if our kids really screw up in life are we going to blame ourselves or society. How about just accept them and stop playing the blame game.

Anonymous said...

How does one get the minutes to the towns deliberative meeting and the schools?

Rick said...

They are posted on the Town and Schools website.

Anonymous said...

cant find them, have you seen them on the towns site rick?

Rick said...

I was at town hall today asking the same question. The town is done and being posted any day. I was told the school ones will be turned in this week and hopefully posted end of this weekend the beginning of next.