DAIRA CLINE,Monitor staff
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
(Published in print: Thursday, February 13, 2014)
What does a million dollars buy the children who attend elementary and middle school in Allenstown? The town’s school board answered that question last night at its final meeting before March 11, when voters will have the opportunity to remove that amount from the district’s proposed operating budget.
In a flier it distributed last night and said it will post to the district’s website, the board listed 27 items it believes will be cut if the proposed budget for the 2014-2015 school year is adopted. Included on the list is a school resource officer, an art teacher, a music teacher, a French teacher and a physical education teacher. The middle school’s soccer, baseball and cheerleading teams are also on the list of potential cuts.
The school board is opposed to the $8.78 million proposed operating budget that appears on the town’s 2014 warrant, and members are asking residents to vote against it so that the default budget of $9.7 million will be adopted. The default budget matches the original amount requested by the board for the 2014-2015 academic year – before it was amended by a vote of 35-33 at the town’s deliberative session earlier this month. The amendment, at the suggestion of budget committee member Larry Anderson, surprised school board members and has angered some parents.
About 20 parents attended the meeting last night and voiced concerns about their children’s academic lives. Board members listened to parents’ fears and tried to answer questions, but they often told them they could offer few answers until after the vote.
Questions such as: “Will my child lose reading assistance?” “Will we never have field trips?” “Will we lose teachers?”
“We don’t know what is going to happen,” board member Thomas Gilligan said. “After the vote, it’s a whole new world. Let’s keep it simple and tell people to vote no on Article 1 on the warrant.”
Joining the school board and parents at the meeting were the Allenstown police chief and his department’s school resource officer, state Sen. John Reagan, Town Administrator Shaun Mulholland and a few teachers. Missing from the meeting were supporters of the amended budget. Anderson could not be reached last night for additional comment.
The new proposed budget is 8.7 percent lower than the current operating budget, while the default budget is 1.4 percent higher. The proposed budget would reduce taxes by $4.05 per $1,000 of assessed property value. The current tax rate in Allenstown for schools is $16.20 per $1,000 of assessed value.
Parents also said their children are coming home asking questions they feel they cannot answer. Deborah Bulkley, principal of both the elementary and middle schools, urged them to keep things in the present.
“I think it would be alarmist to discuss this now with children,” Bulkley said. “The vote has not happened yet, the cuts have not happened yet.”
Still, Rebecca Polsin said her fourth-grader is worried she won’t get to play sports until she is in high school, and she and her friends are concerned they will lose their upcoming field trip to Strawbery Banke in Portsmouth – the first field trip of her daughter’s academic career.
“Through these cuts,” Polsin said, “you are denying these kids the right to discover if they are an artist, if they are an athlete, if they are a musician. How sad is that?”
(Daira Cline can be reached at 369-3306 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)