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Hillsboro-Deering to consider changing use of district savings account

There are few changes proposed in the Hillsboro-Deering School District budget for next year.

Voters will get their say on the proposed $19.9 million budget at Monday night’s annual deliberative session, along with several other warrant articles. They may also be presented once again with a proposal to cut that budget significantly, put forward by the same group that persuaded voters to cut $1 million from the current budget at last year’s meeting.

The proposed budget is $286,000 more than the current budget, an increase of about 1.5 percent.

It includes a new program for gifted and talented students expected to cost $10,000 and a plan to eliminate three library assistant positions, said school board Chairman Rich Pelletier.

Contractual increases, including a possible 10 percent increase in health insurance costs, are driving the budget increase, he said.

Much of the discussion Monday night could center on a pair of warrant articles to add to a district savings account for capital expenses and change the official use of the fund.

The emergency fund currently has about $250,000. The board had planned to ask voters to fund two projects this year from tax revenue: $180,000 for a boiler for the middle school and $30,000 for replacement windows in one wing of the elementary school.

Instead, the board proposes adding $100,000 of tax revenue into the expendable trust, and then going to the trustees of the fund for permission to take out $210,000 for this year’s projects, leaving $140,000 for emergencies.

The board would have to go to the trustees for approval and hold a public hearing before spending trust funds, Pelletier said.

The plan “seemed like a win-win” to the school board, Pelletier said.

“Whenever we do a capital improvement now, we do it by warrant article, and the tax rate every year fluctuates based on how much we ask for.

“If we ask for the same amount every year to go into the fund, that will keep the tax rate from fluctuating, it’ll help us plan better, because we’ll have the same amount coming in provided they approve it every year, and we’d save money this year,” he said.

Still, a group of residents who last year cut the school budget by $1 million at the deliberative session is concerned about the plan, and has been campaigning against it.

They also plan to move to reduce the board’s proposed budget by $500,000, said Carmyn Young of Hillsboro.

The deliberative session is scheduled to begin Monday at 7 p.m., and is being held at the Hillsboro-Deering Cooperative Middle School.

(Sarah Palermo can be reached at 369-3322 or spalermo@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @SPalermoNews.)

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