School Budget In Lebanon Stays Steady
Teachers Unsuccessful in Effort To Add $80K for School Tech Job
Lebanon — City residents launched an unsuccessful last-ditch bid to add $80,000 to the $37.6 million 2013-2014 school district spending plan on Saturday, despite already facing a significant increase in taxes.
The motion to amend the budget was put forward as a way to pay for a full-time “technology integrator” at the high school, a position that is currently handled on a part-time basis.
“Both teachers and students will benefit from this position,” said Bonnie Robinson, an extended learning opportunity coordinator at Lebanon High School, in arguing why the position should be increased to full-time. “Technology is simply the way we need to do business in the 21st century. It will enhance teaching and it will enhance learning.”
Although city residents are allowed to increase or lower overall spending in the budget, they are barred from any say in how that money should be spent. Thus there was no guarantee that the position would have been reinstated, even if the money was put back in the budget.
If all warrant articles — including the school budget and three district employee contracts — pass the ballot on March 12, the school portion of the Lebanon tax bill would go up by about $370 annually for a house assessed at $250,000, according to district business administrator Jim Fenn.
The higher tax bothered at least one city resident. Terry Grigsby said she had taught in the school district for more than 20 years and that she lives in a one-bedroom 650 square-foot condominium, for which she pays $2,600 per year in taxes.
“How much more are you going to be able to tax the Lebanon taxpayers?” she asked.
Other teachers from the high school also spoke in favor of the motion to add $80,000 to the budget — which narrowly failed with 21 votes opposed, and 18 in favor.
Jamie Lawrence, a language teacher, said that a technology integrator allows teachers to access and use the sometimes bewildering technology that is becoming a bigger component in the classroom and which is already paid for under the district budget.
“This year I’ve used more technology than I ever have in my 21 years of teaching because there is someone to help from the smallest, most ignorant question to, ‘How do I plan a lesson using iPads?’ ” she said. “Having a person come in and give a lesson with you for the students is incredibly beneficial.”
State Rep. Susan Almy, a Lebanon Democrat, asked the Board to explain why, if enrollment is declining, additional teaching positions were still being added to the budget.
“I wonder how that works if we’re adding teachers when we’re cutting students,” she said. “I can understand not cutting teachers, because it’s very difficult to cut when you’ve only got one kid leaving the school.”
Superintendent Gail Paludi said that “overall we’re fairly stable, but we’re seeing an increase in population at the elementary schools,” which she said explained the need to add positions at those schools in order to maintain teacher-to-student ratios.
Resident Susan Derosiers spoke in opposition to School Board’s decision to sell the former junior high school on Bank Street, which she said would only cost taxpayers $10 or less a year to keep as a city-owned property.
Derosiers also said a new school could be constructed on the property, pending a state waiver, which she said was not made clear to city residents.
“I think when you include information that makes people perceive that you can’t do anything with that property, that’s misinformation to the public,” she said. “I think they should know that you can have a waiver to build.”
Board member Al Patterson said that whether a waiver would be approved was uncertain, and board member Lori Hibner added that residents had already voted down a proposal to raze the building.
Board member Bob McCarthy, who chairs the real estate committee, said that the district is spending $100,000 per year “just to sit on a piece of property.”
If we do nothing for 10 or 15 years, that’s $1.5 million,” he said. “We’re spending $400 a day now.”
Patterson added that the money could instead go toward fulfilling the educational needs of Lebanon’s students.
It was also revealed at the meeting that a vacancy would open up for the seat currently held by board member Laura Dykstra, who announced yesterday that she will not run for another three-year term.
Also up for election in March are the three-year seats held by Christina Haidari and Patterson, who said yesterday that he plans to seek another term.
Ben Conarck can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3213.