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Monadnock school district: Budget, elementary renovations fail

Monadnock school district: Budget, elementary renovations fail

By Isaac Stein Sentinel Staff | Posted: Thursday, March 16, 2017 12:00 pm

The proposed budget was only the first to go down.

By a tally of 786 to 562, Monadnock Regional School District voters marked “no” on the proposed $32,746,272 budget for next school year.

The proposal was up $800,471, or about 2.5 percent, from the $31,945,801 operating budget voters approved last year.

Troy residents voted down all spending articles, while the budget found support among Swanzey residents, 309-222. On other warrant articles, sentiment in the towns was more mixed.

But in reality, voters’ rejection of the budget proposal didn’t make a difference.

In defeat, the budget for the Monadnock district will be the default budget, which is $32,746,272, That’s the same as last year, with certain adjustments required by the district by law — and exactly the same as the budget proposal.

As stated in the warrant, the proposed operating budget figure excluded Special Warrant Articles, which are covered by N.H. RSA 32:3 VI. So, $193,000 will also need to be raised separately through taxes for continued asbestos abatement for flooring at Monadnock Regional Middle/High School and Mount Caesar Elementary School, in Swanzey Center. That was in a separate warrant article which passed narrowly— 706 to 648.

District voters also shot a flak barrage at other warrant articles in this week’s voting. Roxbury cast ballots Wednesday due to Tuesday’s nor’easter; all of the other district towns — Fitzwilliam, Gilsum, Richmond, Swanzey, and Troy — voted Tuesday.

In addition to the budget, another four of the nine articles on the Monadnock district warrant failed.

Most prominent among them was an article that asked voters to approve $1,399,999 in renovations to Mount Caesar in Swanzey Center. That proposal narrowly failed, 686 to 669.

The project would have demolished modular trailers added on to the kindergarten through 2nd-grade school in the 1980s to house six classrooms and replaced them with six permanent classrooms.

Another big money article that voters shot down asked for a three-year, $2.59 million contract between the school district and the Monadnock District Education Association. The contract was more than the $2.29 million agreement voters rejected at the district’s annual meeting last year.

The contract covered approximately 160 faculty; now that it failed, those employees will continue to work under the terms of their existing contract.

Among the handful of warrant articles that passed was number nine, which billed itself as in compliance with the freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The article asked voters to have the school board delete a section of its policy that states, “when the Board has made a final decision, members of the Board should take no private action that will compromise the Board or administration; and refrain from private actions which undermine or compromise official Board action.”

The board approved that policy section last September; members who voted in favor said it was recommended by the N.H. School Boards Association, and isn’t contradictory to free speech.

The three Monadnock board members who voted against the policy, Phyllis T. Peterson and Winston A. Wright, both of Fitzwilliam, and Nicholas A. Mosher of Roxbury, all said they were concerned the policy was a way to silence the opinion of board members who disagree with the majority.

The other two articles that Monadnock district voters backed asked them to approve the district “(receiving and approving) the reports of the agents, auditors, committees and officers chosen as printed and distributed in the Annual Report,” and a separate article about “(listening) to opinions of a purely advisory nature with regards to the conduct of school affairs for the ensuing year.”

There were no contested elections, but incumbent Elizabeth Tatro of Swanzey and district board Chairman Michael Blair of Swanzey won three year terms Robert Colbert of Swanzey won re-election for a one-year term; Winston Wright of Fitzwilliam was re-elected for a three-year term, and Lisa Steadman of Troy for a three-year term. Also, Neil Moriarty won a seat representing Richmond.

District Moderator Bill Hutwelker also won another one-year appointment.