Newport May Proceed With Vote

Valley News Correspondent
Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Newport — Today’s vote on the Newport School District budget and other warrant articles will proceed after a judge denied a petition by a resident seeking to halt the vote after he alleged the district failed to provide enough cost details on the teachers’ contract.

The court order explaining Judge Brian Tucker’s reasoning will not be filed with the court until today, according to court officials and the attorney for the school district, Dean Eggert.

But Eggert confirmed, as did the court, that the petition for an injunction had been denied.

Resident Bert Spaulding Sr., filed the petition last week and at a hearing on Thursday, his attorney, Mike Shklar, of Newport, argued that by law, the cost breakdown of the teachers’ contract must be provided at the budget public hearings, in this case on Jan. 12 and Feb. 6. Shklar said his client only had the gross appropriation of $223,445 and the $1,240 step increase each teacher is to receive if voters approve the budget today.

Shklar said the step increase only explains part of the cost breakdown.

The school district posted more detail on its website on Feb. 24, including the cost of longevity payments and health benefits, nearly three weeks after the Feb. 7 deliberative session — the last chance voters had to amend the budget.

Shklar asked the court to stop today’s vote and schedule a new deliberative session and vote.

Eggert, of Manchester, told Tucker that the district gave the information required by law at School Board budget hearings and a meeting of the Budget Advisory Committee.

Even before then, on Jan. 10, there was a “robust discussion of the cost items” when the board ratified the budget, Eggert said, referring to the meeting minutes.

Superintendent Cindy Gallagher said she was not able to comment on the decision because she had not seen the order, but was happy with the outcome.

“I am pleased voters will have a chance to vote on the budget,” Gallagher said on Monday afternoon.

Polls are open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the opera house.

Spaulding said he had no comment.

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