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Hillsboro-Deering voters support school board budget

One year after voters at a sparsely attended deliberative session cut the Hillsboro-Deering School District budget by $1 million, more than 140 people attended last night’s session and thwarted a smaller cut by the same group.

The budget that will appear on the ballot next month is slightly more than $19.9 million, a 1.5 percent increase from the current budget.

Mary Lannon moved at the deliberative session last night to cut $280,239.

“We looked line by line very carefully,” she said. “We asked the board previously to rein in spending and it’s still not as low as taxpayers would like.”

Her proposal was defeated in a secret ballot vote, 120-24.

The crowd hinted at its sentiment before the vote, applauding for the handful of speakers supporting the school board’s proposed budget, including board member Steven Hahn.

“We as a school board were elected to represent you and provide the best possible school program at the most reasonable cost for the taxpayers and the students,” Hahn said.

“We worked very hard on this budget. If you don’t like the direction we’re going, we can be tossed out of office. I sat last year where you are, looking at the budget for the first time. This year, I’m here, having gone through it for several hours with my colleagues and the administration. The budget the board put forward is responsible and relatively lean.”

After some further discussion, voters also put forward to the ballot a proposal to amend a district savings fund and add to it, advancing a plan by the school board to use the fund for ongoing maintenance projects with a steady stream of tax funding, instead of relying on jumps in the tax rate whenever a project arises.

The emergency fund 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 proposed 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, but that didn’t assuage Carmyn Young of Hillsboro.

“I think the voters approve capital expenditures that are necessary, for the betterment of the town and the school,” she said. “I think we are very responsible voters that way. (The proposal) is trying to subvert that, to allow the board to spend this money without a direct vote from voters.”

Young’s motion to amend the warrant article to limit the school board’s ability to use the funds was rejected in a secret ballot vote, 85-38.

Marjorie Porter, also of Hillsboro, said the public hearing and annual meetings will still give voters chances to voice their opinions.

“Each year you could put an x next to the $100,000, you are saying, ‘Yes, I agree’ or ‘No, I don’t agree.’ That is where you have your say,” she said.

The district vote is scheduled for March 11.

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

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