Haverhill Residents to Vote on How to Pay for School Upgrades

Haverhill residents will elect town and school officers by Australian ballot on Tuesday, March 11, at the Municipal Building in North Haverhill between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. Voters will gather at 8 p.m. at Haverhill Cooperative Middle School to transact all other articles on the town warrant. The Haverhill Cooperative School District meeting will be held on March 20 at the middle school at 7 p.m., where voters will consider articles on the school warrant.

Haverhill — For the second consecutive year, voters will be asked to approve a bond to make necessary fire and safety improvements to two buildings on the Woodsville High School campus.

This year, residents voting in the Haverhill Cooperative School District will be given a choice, though.

That choice: to pay for all of the upgrades in one shot under a $268,213 bond, or to pay for a portion of the upgrades in a $123,337 bond — paying for the remainder down the road.

“They would be choosing to pay more money now and get it all done, or to do it in two swoops,” SAU 23 Superintendent Bruce Labs said.

Last year, a $330,000 bond to make the necessary upgrades didn’t win a two-thirds majority, as required. The money would go toward bringing the main high school building and a second building containing the gym, cafeteria, music classrooms and locker rooms up to code with requirements set by the State Fire Marshal’s Office.

Some of those improvements include constructing an “enclosed stairway” and adding extra doors, so if a fire were to break out in a wing of the building, the doors could be shut, thus stopping the fire from spreading.

If voters approve the smaller of the two bonds, upgrades will first be made to the main high school building, Labs said.

Proposed spending in the school’s operating budget is up less than 1 percent to $12.9 million, Finance Manager Pat Amsden said.

If all spending articles on the school warrant pass, the school tax rate would increase by $1.88 to $21.37 per $1,000 of assessed value.

That includes the 8 cent tax impact for the first payment on the five-year loan if the smaller of the two bonds passes. All told, the owner of a $200,000 home would pay about $4,274 in school taxes, which represents a $376 increase.

“We really have worked hard to get it down,” Labs said of the small increase in the operating budget, which accounts for a decrease in revenue and increases in salaries and wages, health insurance premiums and tuition payments to the River Bend Career and Technical Center, a regional vocational school.

“More students are going to the vocational center than we anticipated,” Labs said, noting it costs roughly $6,000 per student for the program that offers automotive, cosmetology and culinary classes, to name a few.

Voters will be asked to approve the professional staff’s contract, which includes a 3 percent increase in wages for the upcoming fiscal year, Labs said. T wo other articles ask for residents’ input on whether to shift surplus funds at the end of the current fiscal year into building and maintenance and special education trust funds.

The building and maintenance account was recently depleted, Labs said, as the money was used to make mandatory code improvement upgrades to the buildings after the bond vote failed.

On the municipal side, voters will be asked to approve a 8 percent increase in total spending over the budget voters approved last year. The proposed operating budget is up 2.5 percent, to $3.8 million.

“There are no real big ticket items in there,” Town Manager Glenn English said of the proposed operating budget increase.

An increase in wages, health insurance premiums and minor fluctuations in police, recreation and highway spending make up the difference, he said.

Residents will be asked to approve $16,500 to continue the agreement for recycling services and $150,000 for a culvert replacement on Page Road.

“It is a red -listed culvert,” English said. “(It) is inadequate and is deteriorated.”

On the upside, the town will likely receive $95,000 in grants for the culvert replacement, as it sits on the North Branch stream, “which is a major trout stream.”

“There is a drop at the end which makes it difficult for fish passages,” English said. “(That is) why granters came and said, ‘we want to make improvements.’ ”

Warrant Articles

Voters will also weigh in on nine warrant articles that ask for appropriations for various organizations.

Voters will decide whether to add $20,000 to the vehicle capital reserve fund to purchase a one-ton truck in the near future, and $60,000 to the fire vehicle capital reserve fund for purchasing or leasing fire t rucks.

“There is no increase in money here, it is just coming from a different pocket,” English said of the $60,000 allocation. The three village fire departments took on a new funding scheme last year, and instead of giving $20,000 to each department, the money will be put into the town account.

Lastly, a petitioned article to be voted on by Australian ballot, seeks to change an ordinance for how the town regulates the spreading of human sludge on farm fields for fertilizer.

“We have an ordinance in place that makes it fairly difficult to apply sludge,” English said, noting the ordinance would adopt state rules. “Those rules would make it much easier to spread sludge.”

The Planning Board is not in support of the ordinance change, and neither is English.

If all articles pass, the municipal tax rate is projected to increase 70 cents to $7 per $1,000 of assessed value. If approved, the owner of a $200,000 home would pay roughly $1,400 in municipal taxes.

There is one contested race for an at-large School Board seat between Todd Chasse and Donald LoCascio. Maryanne Aldrich is running unopposed.

On the town side, Robert Roudebush is running unopposed for a three-year term on the Selectboard.

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.