Mascenic residents cut school budget

By CAMERON CASHMAN

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Published: 02-09-2024 3:01 PM

Modified: 02-13-2024 2:48 PM


The Mascenic Regional School District’s proposed 2024-2025 operating budget was cut by $1 million after an amendment passed at the SAU 87 deliberative session Wednesday night.

The amendment, proposed by New Ipswich resident Bentti Hoiska, brought the budget down to approximately $20.45 million after a 130-80 secret-ballot vote.

“Mascenic’s path is unsustainable,” said Hoiska. “Budgets continue to rise while student enrollment has fallen and is unlikely to increase.”

New Ipswich resident Mike Pellerito opposed the amendment, saying, “I do not think it’s responsible for supporting our students’ education and supporting our community.”

Discussion about the school budget, particularly its impact on local taxes, took up a significant amount of the session, which lasted for more than three hours. Article 4, which was submitted by a petition from a community member, proposed the adoption of a local tax cap. If passed, the tax cap would prevent a governing body or budget committee from submitting a recommended budget that would raise local taxes by more than 1.2%.

New Ipswich resident Ed Rogers proposed an amendment to the article to raise the tax cap to 9%, which he explained might help protect the school district from drastic cuts in the case of reduced state funding and increased employee insurance premiums. The amendment failed in a 105-75 standing vote.

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New Ipswich resident John Schaumloffel proposed a subsequent amendment, which would have raised the tax cap to 6%, which also failed in a 107-65 vote.

Another warrant article would eliminate the Mascenic Regional School District’s superintendent position. It was sent to the March 12 warrant unchanged, despite an attempt to amend it.

Article 6, also submitted by petition, would have the superintendent’s responsibilities reassigned to existing full- or part-time school district employees.

An amendment proposed by Schaumloffel would have changed the warrant article’s language from a vote to “eliminate the superintendent position” to “retain the superintendent position.” The amendment was struck down after a quick standing vote but not before some residents shared their thoughts on it.

Mascenic Regional High School senior Aurora Sousa said that dividing the many duties of a superintendent “would cause absolutely nothing but chaos.”

Conversely, New Ipswich resident Tina Hood emphasized the ability to coordinate duties to multiple employees through meetings, even virtually through platforms like Zoom.

“It is easy enough to have the duties of the superintendent done by other people,” she said.

A petition article that would establish a cooperative school budget committee consisting of elected representatives and a member of the School Board also generated discussion. If established, this committee would have the final say in proposed school district budgets. Currently, the budget is created by the School Board with suggestions from the Advisory Budget Committee.

Greenville resident Jonathan Bouley said the establishment of the current Advisory Budget Committee was “an unneeded reduction of power of our voted School Board,” and that the new article was only a continuation of this reduction. Bouley proposed an amendment to the article that would keep the current advisory committee.

New Ipswich resident Joshua Chitwood opposed the amendment, saying that a dedicated budget committee would take pressure off the School Board, whose members don’t have the time or resources to research the minutiae of a proposed school budget.

After a 95-82 standing vote, the amendment failed, and the article went to the March ballot unchanged.

An article to increase the School Building Repair and Maintenance Capital Reserve Fund by $150,000 would support various maintenance and improvements to district infrastructure, including the installation of LED lighting at Highbridge Hill Elementary School, parking lot seal coating at Boynton Middle School, a replacement hot-water boiler system at Mascenic Regional High School, the replacement of one rooftop heater unit and a replacement lawn mower for district use. No one commented on this article.

New Ipswich residents will vote on the warrant articles at Mascenic Regional High School on March 12 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Greenville residents vote at Greenville Elementary School from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. March 12.