Allenstown school district to ask voters to re-hire resource officer

  • The school resource officer would split time between the middle school, called Armand R. Dupont School, and Allenstown Elementary School.

Monitor staff
Thursday, January 05, 2017

After failing to come to an agreement with the town last summer, school officials in Allenstown will put re-hiring a school resource officer to voters in a warrant article at town meeting.

In a money crunch last year, the school board cut the position from this year’s budget. Residents rallied at the town’s deliberative session, and added $78,000 back in to cover the cost of keeping the officer. But afterward, talks broke down between the district and the town, and an officer was never hired back.

Because the police department is under the town’s purview, the district must contract with the municipality for the officer. The select board had sought a three-year commitment from the district before hiring a new officer, arguing it would be impractical to find, hire and train someone for a single year. Town leaders had also asked the district to cover the full annual cost of the position.

The two parties never came to an agreement over those two issues, and Allenstown Town Administrator Shaun Mulholland said Thursday they remain key areas of concern for the town.

Municipal officials only just heard about the school board’s proposal at a budget committee meeting in December, Mulholland said, and didn’t have any of the details about it. The select board plans to take a position on the issue at its meeting Monday, he said.

“The concept of an SRO is something that the board of selectmen thinks is important …,” he said. “(But) the two boards need to communicate.”

The school board is finalizing a warrant article that would appropriate $84,000 for an officer next year and create a position for three years, starting next year, contingent on an agreement with the town, and district voters approving the expense each year. But it appears to be sticking to its guns regarding splitting the cost of the officer.

“Since the SRO would NOT be providing any services to the district during the two summer months (approx. 6/20 to 8/20), we cannot legally pay for or budget for those services,” School Board chairman Tom Gilligan wrote in an email.

Meanwhile, the school district will put a $10,392,853 budget before voters this year, up 6.1 percent from this year’s $9,797,480 budget.

The projected tax increase without warrants is an additional $3.74 on the tax rate. With two warrants approving a contract for teachers and paraeducators, the increase is projected at $4.16. The possible tax impact of the SRO has not yet been calculated.

The default budget is $10,128,068, and Gilligan argues that shows the majority of the budget’s growth is due to built-in but growing costs.

“3.7 percent of the increases are due to the rise in costs of existing obligations like Health Insurance, Retirement System increase, transportation costs, etc.,” he wrote.

The proposed budget does include a few new line items. Among them, a math interventionist, at $86,000, to help the 63 percent of district students who did not meet achievement benchmarks in math on last year’s Smarter Balanced assessment. The proposed budget also includes $22,000 for a curriculum director for SAU 53, $85,000 for a new kindergarten teacher and $86,000 for a new special education teacher.

The district also wants an extra $56,000 next year to offer older, more expensive teachers buyouts and replace them with younger, less expensive hires.

The proposed budget includes some cuts, including axing a part-time media specialist and its full-time budget secretary. One full-time special education teacher will also go part time.

The town’s budget committee will hold a public hearing on the school district’s 2017-18 budget and the town’s 2017 budget Jan. 14 at 9 a.m. at the Allenstown Community Center located at 8 Whitten St. The deliberative session for the town and school budgets is scheduled for Feb. 4 at 9 a.m., with a Feb. 8 snow date.

(Lola Duffort can be reached at 369-3321 or lduffort@cmonitor.com.)