After meeting, Hill speeding ahead to become SAU 103 in July

  • SAU 18 superintendent Daniel Legallo, in the grey suit, attends his last Hill School District annual meeting Wednesday night. Starting July 1, Legallo will only oversee Franklin schools, since that district withdrew from the joint SAU it had with Hill this winter. Elodie Reed—Monitor staff

  • Hill supervisors of the checklist Marie Stanley, left, Elizabeth Meyerhoefer, center and Anne Ford, right, prepare for voters to check in at the annual school district meeting Wednesday evening. Elodie Reed—Monitor staff

  • Hill School District held its annual meeting Wednesday night at the Jennie D. Blake School, the only school the district has in town. Elodie ReedMonitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 3/22/2017 11:50:53 PM

With just one elementary school holding 63 students, Hill School District will officially become SAU 103 on July 1.

The topic came up only briefly at the town’s annual school district meeting Wednesday, which was held at the SAU’s new headquarters: Jennie D. Blake elementary school.

School board chairwoman Shelly Henry explained to voters that even with the upcoming transition, the proposed $2.1 million proposed budget was down 3.6 percent from last year.

“We worked hard on this budget this year,” Henry said. “With the withdrawal of Franklin from SAU 18 we had additional expenses to bring into this plan.”

The proposed budget shows that while $67,249 was appropriated for last year’s SAU assessment, the amount for 2017-18 is proposed to be $89,800, a 33.5 percent increase.

Among those costs is the salary for a new part-time superintendent, local resident Michelle Munson. (While Hill gave up most of its previous SAU infrastructure, it did, in a memorandum of understanding with Franklin School District, score several filing cabinets, two computers and a little under $2,000).

There was no discussion about the operating budget during the annual meeting, and it passed easily by voice vote. It was one of five warrant articles, and all passed in a brisk 17-minute session.

The silence on the SAU situation generally mirrored Hill’s lack of participation throughout the process of Franklin School District withdrawing from SAU 80 – the city council voted to do so this past winter.

Almost two years before, Hill voted to send its middle and high school students to Newfound School District for at least 10 years. And in the Hill annual report handed out Wednesday night, a note written by the Jennie D. Blake School principal was optimistic.

“We are very excited to start our new chapter as our own SAU,” Principal Brian Connolly wrote. “Fortunately, we have a team of dedicated professionals who are committed to a seamless transition.”

He added that in their first year and a half in Newfound schools, Hill students were performing well.

The one resident who stood up Wednesday to discuss the SAU wondered if Hill shouldn’t make a more complete transition to the Newfound School District.

“In 2011-2012, there were 78 kids in this school,” Stuart Miesfeldt said of Jennie D. Blake. “This year, there were 63. This trend keeps going down and down and down.”

He added: “Are there other alternatives?”

Still in the midst of finalizing the most recent transition to SAU 103, Henry, the school board chairwoman, told Miesfeldt that the hope is the trend will reverse.

Henry did point out that the school started with 61 students at the beginning of the year and has since added two more.

“It’s something we keep an eye on,” she said.

Perhaps if the school district’s operating budget continues decreasing like the one offered Wednesday, Miesfeldt suggested, lower taxes might attract more families – with children – to move in.

“I think it’s a good thing,” Miesfeldt said. “I appreciate it.”

(Elodie Reed can be reached at 369-3306, or on Twitter @elodie_reed.)

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