As reported by Matt Nanci, Keene Sentinel Staff
JAFFREY — The Jaffrey-Rindge Cooperative School District budget will head to voters as is, after an unsuccessful attempt to cut it at the deliberative session Wednesday. About 360 people attended the two-and-a-half hour meeting at the gymnasium of Conant High School in Jaffrey.
The 2015-16 proposed operating budget is $25,616,015, a $74,092 increase from the current-year budget. The default budget is $25,637,173, and will kick in if voters reject the board’s proposal in March.
On Wednesday, Rindge Selectmen Chairwoman Roberta Oeser made a motion to cut $477,479 from the proposed budget, which would have reduced the number to $25,138,536. Oeser said she was proposing the same budget reduction as she did last year because she believes the district isn’t budgeting properly for costs, including fuel. “I feel like the school board and administration don’t care about the voters,” she said.
But Thomas Horne of Rindge, a senior at Conant High School and the student representative to the school board, disagreed. He said the board puts a lot of time and effort into its decision-making and looks out for the voters. “They (the school board) are really trying to take into account every conceivable factor that they can.”
David Dustin, a social studies teacher at the high school, urged voters to “consider the future of the community when you make your vote.”
The students didn’t ask to be born into difficult economic times, and deserve to be supported in their education just as previous generations have been, he said. “Please don’t be the people that turn their backs on their community by slashing their educational future,” Dustin said.
Ultimately, the motion failed in a secret-ballot vote, with 265 people voting against the budget reduction and 96 people voting for it.
Residents also raised concerns about the proposed staff cuts in the 2015-16 budget plan. The proposal includes cutting two full-time teachers at Conant High School, and two full-time teachers at Jaffrey-Rindge Middle School. A handful of residents wanted to know which teachers would be cut.
School board Chairman Dan Whitney of Rindge said it has not been determined yet and would be something the administration would decide.
Deborah Opramolla of Rindge said community members should have a say in the decision and the absence of input represents a “lack of voice” between residents and the school board.
But Whitney responded that administrators have a better idea of where the cuts need to be made. “If you do not trust the people who have been hired to make those decisions, that’s another discussion,” Whitney said.
Residents will vote on the budget and the other warrant articles on March 10 at the polls.
This was not the result of random action by the voters in Jaffrey-Rindge. The JREA was very active, following the outline provided in the NEA-NH M.O.M. training. Said one of the teachers active in the process, “Thank you for kick starting our district and helping us unlock the potential for concerted action that flowered last night. Your inspiration and leadership were an essential component for us achieving this important step and we are on our way to victory in the March vote. There is energy and consensus about what should be done in winning the vote for the budget, and contract and electing a pro-school board members.”
Emphasis and comments added by NEA-NH.