Nearly $400,000 cut from Allenstown school budget proposal

  • Committee members in Allenstown cut $392,000 from the school district’s original budget proposal in response to a projected $4.49 increase in the town’s tax rate. Monitor file

Monitor staff
Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Voters in Allenstown will see a much leaner school budget on the ballot at deliberative session this year than their school board had hoped.

Revolting against a budget with a projected $4.49 increase on the tax rate, the town’s budget committee voted last week to ax $392,000 from the school district’s proposed budget and withheld their support for an $84,000 warrant article that would fund a school resource officer.

Instead of the $10,392,000 the school board had proposed, voters will see an even $10 million budget when they gather in February to discuss and amend warrant articles for the first session of town meeting.

Including warrant articles for new contracts for teachers and paraeducators, the budget committee’s proposal is projected to require a $2.57 bump on the tax rate.

Pointing to a high number of students with disabilities and the district’s low test scores in math, budget committee member Michael Frascinella said Wednesday the town’s taxpayers weren’t getting their money’s worth.

“The expenses of running the school keep going up, but the results don’t seem to be going up,” he said.

Two of the line items in the school board’s budget had dealt directly with disabilities and with math. The proposal asked for $86,000 for a math interventionist and $86,000 for a special education teacher.

Frascinella also questioned the need for a school resource officer, calling the proposal “a good idea if you’ve got money to burn.”

School board member Kris Raymond declined Wednesday to say what the committee’s budget proposal would mean for the school district if passed at town meeting, and whether layoffs would be necessary, because the board hadn’t met to discuss it yet. But Raymond, who is the board’s representative on the budget committee, did note the committee’s proposal was now $184,000 less than the district’s default budget. 

She also defended the board’s decision to put an SRO on the ballot, which voters at town meeting last year voted in favor of funding.

“We did believe that it was a position of value,” Raymond said.  

The budget committee last year eliminated the position from the budget in a money crunch, but voters at deliberative session added $78,000 back into budget to fund the position. The school board and select board never came to an agreement about which entity would pay for what, and an officer was never hired back. 

Raymond said truancy rates had gone down while the district had employed an SRO, but noted that wasn’t sure if they’d ticked back up this year without a police officer in the schools. 

Allenstown’s deliberative session is scheduled for 9 a.m. on Feb. 4 at the Allenstown Community Center located at 8 Whitten St. – with a 6 p.m. Feb. 8 snow date. The second session of town meeting is March 14.

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