Bow school district passes $28.8M budget, plans elementary school renovation next year

  • From left: Bow School Board Chair June Branscom, Vice Chair Jennifer Strong-Rain, and board members Kathy Garfield and Bryce Larrabee are seen at the school district meeting at Bow High School on Friday, March 15, 2019. (NICK STOICO / Monitor staff) Nick Stoico—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 3/15/2019 11:03:05 PM

School officials in Bow have been waiting to tackle a renovation project at Bow Elementary School. They say the student population is beginning to outgrow the space and the building needs some updates, such as a new HVAC system and a proper fire suppression system.

But the school board held off on the plan for the last few years as the town spent money on its public safety building and lost its case against Eversource over the Merrimack Station valuation.

At Bow’s annual school district meeting Friday night, voters approved putting away $400,000 for the project as the district inches closer to getting the plan started.

“We’ve been talking about it for a long time, and it’s very crowded over at that school,” SAU 67 Superintendent Dean Cascadden said in his opening remarks. “We may not only be talking about a renovation … but we may have to talk about an addition because of the growth we’ve seen.”

The article carries an estimated tax impact of 34 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, or $102 for a $300,000 home. School board vice chair Jennifer Strong-Rain said the board is trying to save money in a capital reserve fund for the project so it can be done without a bond.

The project would include fixing the school’s roof, installing a new HVAC system, lighting, a new generator, and installing a sprinkler system, which the school currently does not have.

Strong-Rain said the board will establish a renovation committee and is planning to ask voters at next year’s meeting to move forward with the plan.

“We wanted to respect the needs of the town with the safety building and now having the issue with the power plant, we initially wanted to bring it forth this year, but looking at where we’re at as a town we felt it would be better to form this committee, look at things, and try to get more money added into this capital reserve fund,” she said.

Voters approved a $28.83 million operating budget for the school district, an increase of $748,222 or 2.6 percent from last year. With the budget and all warrant articles passing, the estimated tax impact is $17.52 per $1,000 assessed property value, an increase of 79 cents from last year and about $237 for a $300,000 home.

Even with a secret ballot vote on a new teachers contract and a handful of questions from the audience, the meeting was completed in less than an hour and 15 minutes. Of the town’s 6,173 registered voters, only 117 attended the meeting, according to the supervisors of the checklist.

The teachers contract received strong support from the voting body, passing with 99 ‘yes’ votes to 17 opposing it. The first year of the contract carries an estimated increase of $341,210 in salaries and benefits.

Voters also approved a new contract with the teachers’ support staff, which carries an estimated of $91,762 in salaries and benefits for the first year.

An article asking for $28,000 for the athletic fields and facilities capital reserve fund was approved.

Voters also agreed to close the special education expendable trust fund, which was set up in 2002 and only received three deposits, the most recent being in 2005. By closing this fund, the balance of $370,253 moved into the general fund.

Outgoing school board members Kathy Garfield and Robert Louf, neither of whom sought re-election this year, were recognized before the meeting for their service to the district. Garfield will continue to serve the town on the  budget committee.

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