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Claremont Passes School Budget, Tightens Reins 

  • Florence Dow, left, points out that School Board candidate Alex Herzog withdrew from the vote before giving a ballot to Laura Salas, of Claremont, who arrived at the Ward 2 polls in the Claremont Middle School gym with her son Dylan LaClair, 7, in Claremont, N.H., Tuesday, March 13, 2018. Carol Calkins is at left. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Claremont City Councilor Scott Pope takes orders for hot chocolate and coffee from Henry Mulloy, left, and his mother Kelly Mulloy, right, a candidate for Claremont School Board outside the Wards 1 and 2 polls at Claremont Middle School in Claremont, N.H., Tuesday, March 13, 2018. Pope bought the drinks for Mulloy and the other candidates braving the weather to bring in votes.(Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Jason Benware campaigns for a three-year seat on the Claremont School Board outside the Wards 1 and 2 polls at Claremont Middle School in Claremont, N.H., Tuesday, March 13, 2018. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Correspondent
Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Claremont — Three candidates who promised to keep a sharp eye on school district spending in Claremont were elected to three-year terms from a field of six, defeating eight-year incumbent Brian Rapp, who had been the School Board chairman until earlier this year.

Former City Councilor Carolyn Towle received the most votes among three candidates for a one-year seat on the School Board on Tuesday.

School Board Vice Chairwoman Rebecca Zullo, with 625 votes, and newcomers Jason Benware (589) and Steve Horsky (375) defeated Kelly Mulloy (364), Rapp (269) and David Pacetti (209).

Towle received 415 votes followed by former School Board Chairman Richard Seaman, who had 272 votes to 184 for James Allen.

Voters also easily approved, in all three wards, a $34.9 million budget and $141,000 for security upgrades, which will be combined with a state grant of about $561,000 to put surveillance cameras and other security equipment in all district schools. Appropriations for a school bus and middle school roof repairs also were approved by comfortable margins.

The budget, approved 726-202, includes the first year of a two-year teachers contract.

Benware credited his strong showing to active campaigning and his visible presence at School Board meetings, though he admittedly was surprised by his margin of victory.

“I’m kind of taken back by how many people voted for me. I think I ran an intelligent campaign. I got out there and spoke to people about the issues,” Benware said inside the Ward 3 polling place at Disnard Elementary School. “I am open and I do my research; I come prepared. I think people are looking for someone who is honest but also understands compromises need to be made.”

As he prepares to take his seat, Benware said one area he wants to take a close look at is the tech center, which recently hired Alex Herzog as the new director.

“I think the center is pivotal to the success of the community,” he said.

Zullo reacted with surprise when told of her victory shortly after the polls closed.

“I hope it is because people have faith in what I am doing,” Zullo said by phone on Tuesday night. One of four School Board members who voted to support a budget that did not include most of the new spending proposed by Superintendent Middleton McGoodwin in order to achieve a tax rate reduction, Zullo said she promises to remain vigilant about spending.

“We still will be looking out for the best interests of the students, but with good fiscal management.”

Rapp said he was “disappointed” with the results but wished the best for the district. Asked whether his support for increasing the budget factored into his defeat, Rapp said he was not sure that was the reason.

Rapp had been the most vocal among a minority of School Board members in opposing the budget adopted by the board, which cut nearly $330,000 from this year’s spending plan and was considerably less than the amount recommended by McGoodwin. Voters restored $307,000 at the deliberative session.

Combined turnout in all three wards of 947 represented 14 percent of the city’s 6,586 registered voters.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com.