Bow voters approve every item at school district meeting, but costly building improvements draw criticism  

By SRUTHI GOPALAKRISHNAN

Monitor Staff

Published: 03-17-2023 12:18 PM

While Bow residents approved the every item on the warrant at the school district’s annual meeting held on Thursday evening, the school board’s decision to propose the renovation of Bow Elementary School this year was met with frustration from attendees.

The school board asked the voters to approve $12.9 million for renovations at the Bow Elementary School, including the installation of a sprinkler system, safety features such as a new front entrance and locking hardware for doors, and the addition of extra teaching space with the construction of eight new classrooms.

Residents were upset with the school board for failing to set aside funds annually for the school’s upgrades and instead bringing forth the proposal at a time when costs are already high. Many thought the renovation project could have been phased in over time to reduce the financial burden on taxpayers.

However, Superintendent Dean Cascadden defended the school board’s decision, stating that the town had other expenses over the years, such as constructing a new public safety building, power plant re-evaluation and dealing with a pandemic-driven economic situation, which prevented them from putting money aside for the school renovation.

“Every single time we asked, there was another priority in town and we said, ‘we’ll put this off,’ ” said Cascadden. “And now the question is, do you want to keep putting it off?”

Others were critical of the school board for proposing the construction of a $2 million dollar multi-use athletic turf athletic field last year instead of proposing the much-needed safety upgrades to the school

“If this was supposed to come up in 2020 and you put it aside because of COVID-19, then last year, why was this, not the priority?” asked resident Susan Belair.

She said that if this was done last year, the interest rates would have definitely been lower.

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After debate, with more than 10 residents taking to the microphone to voice their concerns on the article, Bow chose to fund the renovations at the elementary school for a 207-100 vote.

The school’s operating budget of $33.7 million dollars was approved with no opposition. The budget represents a modest increase of 1.5% over to the current year’s budget of $33.1 million. Additionally, voters approved adding $1 million dollars to the Capital Reserve Funds to save for future expenses.

Bow residents also approved the addition of funds to the Authorized Regional Enrollment Area (AREA) Capital Reserve Fund. The agreement sets the tuition rate Dunbarton pays for students to attend Bow Middle School and Bow High School.

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