Kearsarge Declines Safety Officer

New London — Kearsarge School District voters didn’t appear to take kindly to a proposal that included money for a school resource officer, as a rare third budget option on the ballot received less than a quarter of the total vote.

Instead, voters at Tuesday’s polls went for a $37.3 million proposal put forth by the school’s Budget Committee. That option received 1,012 votes, or 45.4 percent of votes cast. The School Board’s proposal, for $38,000 more, received 31.3 percent of the vote.

A version of the Budget Committee’s proposal that was amended at a January deliberative session to include $50,000 for the express purpose of hiring a school resource officer lagged behind. The most expensive of the three options garnered 519 votes, or 23.3 percent. Several warrant articles for a school resource officer have been proposed in recent years; all of them failed.

“I was surprised that (the vote) was so strongly against the issue,” School Board Chairman Dan Wolf said. “I think that there was a lack of understanding on the three ballots. But, obviously, the people have spoken.”

Voters opted for the least expensive of the three budgets, which does not fund two programs included in the School Board’s proposal, making for the $38,000 difference. Wolf said the board’s budget included funding for a pilot program that would provide technology such as iPads to the elementary school students, as well as fund an annual eighth-grade trip to Washington, D.C., that historically has been paid for via student fundraising.

But those voting did approve the collective bargaining agreements for both teachers and support staff. The teachers contract was approved 1358-894; the support staff agreement went through by a near-identical tally.

If the resource officer budget option had passed, the officer would have been contracted through the Sutton Police Department and would have spent most of his or her time at the middle and high schools. The additional $50,000 in the budget proposal would have covered the officer’s salary and benefits. According to Administrative Assistant Doreen Salera, there hadn’t ever been a third budget option before this year.

The passed budget is up “just a shade over 2 percent,” Wolf said, when accounting for the appropriations for the two collective bargaining agreements. The estimated local tax assessment is due to increase about 10.7 percent in New London and 7.5 percent in Springfield.

The Kearsarge Regional School District is made up of the New Hampshire towns of New London, Springfield, Bradford, Sutton, Warner and Wilmot.

Jon Wolper can be reached at jwolper@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.