Epsom voters leave school district warrants as is

  • A sparse crowd attends the Epsom school district deliberative session on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018. Lola Duffort—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Wednesday, February 07, 2018

A few voters complained about ever-increasing taxes at the Epsom school district’s deliberative session Tuesday, but residents ultimately left unamended all three of the school warrants.

“If you keep relying solely on taxation to fund the education system, what you’re going to do is drive good taxpayers out of Epsom. You’re going to lose your tax base,” resident John Field said.

School officials are asking voters for $11.42 million for the district’s operating expenses next year. The estimated tax impact is an additional $1.71 per $1,000 of assessed property value over this year’s rate. If the warrant doesn’t pass, the default budget is $11.4 million. The tax impact of the default would be just 6 cents less than the proposed budget, according to SAU 53 Co-superintendent David Ryan.

Still, others said the budget was justified. Former school board and budget committee member Virginia Drew told the crowd they could compare per-pupil spending across the state on the Department of Education’s website.

“We’ve always been in the lower part, and yet we’ve achieved a lot of excellence,” she said.

Included in the proposed budget is a raise of $12,000 for Epsom Central School Vice Principal Jonathan Herod. School board member Lucie Weeks said that at his current salary of $68,000, Herod was making less than some teachers and working an extra 30 days. The board supported the raise, she said, in hopes of keeping Herod working alongside ECS Principal Patrick Connors.

“Basically, we do not want to break up that team. They work very well with each other. And they keep a lot of the problems that could happen at the school down to a minimum,” she said.

All told, the proposed budget is up $366,312. One of the biggest increases in spending is in special education, where expenses are going from $2.01 million to $2.15 million – up $134,538.

One resident, Sherry Yeaton, wondered if a $1 million shortfall in Pembroke, where Epsom tuitions most of its high school students, had created a secondary budget problem for Epsom.

Ryan answered that many had asked him that question, but that it would “not be a financial impact to our town.”

Voters also left untouched two other warrant articles: one to put $40,000 in the district’s special education trust fund, the other to squirrel away $25,000 in a maintenance and repair fund. Since both would be funded from the surplus, neither would have an impact on the tax rate.

Thirty-eight of the town’s 3,501 registered voters attended Tuesday’s deliberative session. Voting on the town and school’s warrants will take place from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Epsom Central School on March 13.

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