Henniker voters approve $6.9 million school district budget
Henniker voters approved a $6.9 million school district budget and a one-year contract with teachers last night, after heated debate and two secret ballot votes.
The approved budget increases $164,900 over the budget approved at last year’s district meeting.
The contract adds about $75,000 for a 2.5 percent salary increase for teachers.
The budget and the contract together increase spending 3.5 percent. In their presentation, school board members repeatedly reminded voters that the budgets for the past five years have been level funded.
The approved spending will mean the school portion of the local tax rate will increase from $10.34 to $11.45 per $1,000 of assessed property value, or 10.7 percent.
Tom French proposed twice to cut the budget, first by more than $412,000, then by more than 200,000.
The first cut was designed to put the district on a four-year path to lower the $17,000 per-student spending level to the state average of $14,000, he said.
“I don’t disagree that we have a great facility, great faculty and great staff, but I don’t see us being 30 percent better than the rest of the state,” he said. “There’s a lot of people leaving this town because they can’t afford to pay taxes here.”
That amendment was defeated by a show of voting cards. French’s second amendment was defeated, 105-48, in a secret ballot vote.
Caleb Dobbins, a former school board and budget committee member, spoke against the motion to cut. Referring to test scores of Henniker Community School students and students at other nearby schools, he noted that the only school in the list that performed better than Henniker was Bow.
“People are moving out of this town to move to Bow to get the education in Bow? Are the taxes less expensive there? Maybe. Maybe they can put all the taxes on (PSNH),” he said. “Maybe we do need to develop some of this town, maybe we need to get a tax base, but we need to do it carefully. To the selectmen who are here, I say be wary, but maybe we do need a tax base. We don’t need to keep this school and the children hostage, because they’re going to move away and they’re not going to move back. The education in this town is far superior than it was when I was here in school
. . . . This town has brought the school back. We don’t want to go backwards.”
When a petition for secret ballot voting on the amendment was raised, after an earlier petition for secret ballots on the budget, several corners of the crowd erupted in booing.
Barbara French, a Democratic state representative for Henniker who has voted in the town since the 1950s, said she can’t remember secret ballots ever being requested at the school meeting before.
(Sarah Palermo can be reached at 369-3322 or
firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @SPalermoNews.)