Voters recommend no changes to John Stark school warrant

  • Parents complain school district didn't do enough after racist death threat at John Stark Regional High School. GEOFF FORESTER

Monitor staff
Published: 2/12/2023 4:15:03 PM

A $14.6 million school budget will be the focus point for John Stark Regional School District voters in March.

Weare and Henniker residents gathered for a deliberative session at John Stark Regional High School Friday night to discuss the school budget, which will appear on the ballot in March. It was a short meeting that proved non-contentious, as the school budget is the only big cost item that voters are being asked to consider this year. No changes were made to the warrant and no residents made public comment.

John Stark’s proposed school operating budget for 2023-2024 is $14.66 million, a 0.44% increase over this year’s budget of $14.59 million. For Henniker residents, the estimated tax rate is $4.28, which is a $0.37 increase and represents $192.50 for a $350,000 home. For Weare residents, the estimated tax rate is $5.23 which is a $0.11 increase and represents $38.50 for a $350,000 home.

“The main reason we go through this process is to address academic, social and emotional needs of our students,” said John Stark School Board Chair Zach Lawson. “It is not about equipment, it is not about capital projects, it’s not about heating supplies and all that stuff, it is ultimately about making sure that we educate the students of this district and getting the staff to do so.”

Contributing to the proposed school operating budget are increases in John Stark’s contributions to SAU24, transportation and special education transportation, and increased tuition and transportation costs for Concord Regional Technical Center (CRTC) and Second Start. Other proposed cost increases are for property services, referees for junior varsity athletic games and increased costs for facilities.

If voters reject the proposed school budget in the polls, a default budget of $14.45 million would go into effect. Voters have passed the John Stark school budget consistently in recent years.

The Weare Finance Committee was divided on whether to support the John Stark school budget, according to chair Tom Clow. While some believed it to be a reasonable ask on the part of the district, others thou ght the increase unnecessary because of a school contingency fund that voters established in 2021.

“Members who support the proposed budget believe the district has consistently proposed budgets which result in a quality program at a reasonable cost,” Clow said. “Members not supporting the proposed budget don’t dispute its merits, but believe there is flexibility in funding it.”

Ballot voting on the John Stark Regional School District’s town and school warrants will take place March 14 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Henniker residents will vote at the Henniker Community School, 51 Western Ave., and Weare residents will vote at Weare Middle School, 16 East Road.

Eileen O

Eileen O'Grady is a Report for America corps member covering education for the Concord Monitor since spring 2020. O’Grady is the former managing editor of Scope magazine at Northeastern University in Boston, where she reported on social justice issues, community activism, local politics and the COVID-19 pandemic. She is a native Vermonter and worked as a reporter covering local politics for the Shelburne News and the Citizen. Her work has also appeared in The Boston Globe, U.S. News & World Report, The Bay State Banner, and VTDigger. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northeastern University and a bachelor’s degree in politics and French from Mount Holyoke College, where she served as news editor for the Mount Holyoke News from 2017-2018.

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