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School Board OKs Claremont Budget

Claremont — The School Board unanimously adopted a proposed $31.1 million general fund budget that will be presented to the voters at the annual deliberative session on Feb. 5.

Board members Brian Rapp and Kristin Kenniston were absent and newly-appointed board member Robert Picard abstained.

The proposed spending plan for the fiscal year beginning July 1 carries a 4.7 percent, or $1.4 million, increase above the current year and would add $1.67 per $1,000 to the tax rate if approved by voters at the school district vote March 11. That comes out to an additional $250 in annual school taxes on a home assessed at $150,000.

The budget has a $1.1 million increase in debt service, mostly for the first year bond payment on the $12.6 million Stevens High School renovation project approved by voters last March. Another $246,000 covers the first year of two contracts approved by the board for teachers and administrators.

School administration ($350,000), general administration ($217,640) and pupil support ($107,022) make up most of the rest of the increase. Offsetting some of the increases are reductions in instructional programs ($165,345) and facilities ($146,500). Before voting for the budget, board member Heather Irish said she was hesitant because of the tax increase. She questioned whether three new positions — student service coordinators at the elementary schools — were absolutely necessary.

“We are asking a lot of taxpayers this time,” said Irish, adding that the board also asked a lot last year with the Stevens High School bond. Though she understands the need, Irish said, it is unrealistic to think the board can meet all needs at once.

Others backed the additional cost of about $300,000 for the new positions and noted that it was being offset by staff reductions at the high school.

“It is a wise way to fulfill some of the needs while not adding to the budget,” said board member David Putnam. “We are restructuring our high school so we can add three positions where we know we need them.”

The default budget of $31,355,101 would add $1.93 to the tax rate. Also on the approved warrant is $204,000 for technology that would add 26 cents to the tax rate.

The three-year board seats of Putnam and Irish will be on the ballot this March along with the one-year remaining on the seat of Robert Picard, who was appointed to replace Gene Grumman after he resigned in November.

Residents have until Jan. 31 to file as a School Board candidate.

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