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Ray School Project Passes

Hanover — A $5.8 million bond to pay for renovating the Ray Elementary School passed with 72.4 percent of voters in support.

The bond required a two-thirds, or 66 percent, majority to pass, and it handily did so by a vote of 570-217. The renovation will fix a leaky roof, improve heating and ventilation, reconfigure the parking lot, replace two portable classrooms with permanent structures and add an extra classroom for full-day kindergarten, among other upgrades.

“I think it’s excellent and I think it shows that the town of Hanover supports the schools and their investment in the community,” Hanover School Board Chairman Kevin Cotter said. “I also think the bond issue is an investment back to the community. The school is part of our community. We need to upkeep it, and we haven’t done a very good job of that in the past couple of years.”

Cotter said the district hopes to have all the building renovations complete by the start of school in August. Reconfiguration of the parking lot and drop-off areas is scheduled to be completed the following year.

School officials have said the 20-year bond should not affect the tax rate during the upcoming fiscal year, but taxpayers with a property valued at $400,000 would likely pay $68 more a year in taxes starting in fiscal year 2016.

Many voters interviewed outside the polls on Tuesday said they supported the Ray School renovation, although a number of them said they also had reservations. Carol DuBois and her husband, Rod, both voted in favor of the renovation, but Rod DuBois said he wished there had been an alternative bond vote that didn’t include restructuring the parking lot.

“The building needs to be done, but to spend that much on parking doesn’t seem worth it,” he said, adding that it would be a shame if the renovation didn’t pass as a whole because of the new traffic pattern.

But the couple agreed that the elementary school, which has a leaky roof, poor insulation and two portable classrooms, “desperately” needs to be renovated.

“We would never put up with it if it was our house,” Carol DuBois said.

John Hochreiter, who has lived in Hanover for about 30 years and whose family members went through the Hanover School District, said he voted in favor of the Dresden and Hanover budgets, as well as the Ray School renovation. But he also said he has “tremendous concerns.”

When Hochreiter was on the School Board in the late 1980s and early 1990s, he said, the Dresden budget was only about a $11 million. Now it’s $24 million.

He said he understands that higher teacher salaries and special education costs have driven the increases. But he said he voted against the $225,000 Dresden warrant article for a new softball field as a way to express his concern.

“I worry about increased taxes,” Hochreiter said. “The fact that my children have been able to come back to Hanover is terrific, but there will be a cost for them. I’m fortunate that my sons have been able to move back and afford it, but that’s not everybody’s case.”

But he said his grandchildren, who are 5 and 3 years old, will benefit from the renovations.

Others, however, like Kevin O’Neill, simply voted against the renovation — as did the Hanover Finance Committee, which voted to oppose the proposal 5 to 1, arguing that it included projects that could be safely delayed, modified or scaled down.

“I don’t dispute that the Ray School is old and needs updating and you can’t just leave it the way it is,” O’Neill said. “But I kind of went with (the finance committee’s) judgment that a lot kind of got loaded into that or it could have been delayed or trimmed down.”

He also voted against both the Hanover and Dresden budgets because he believes students could be given the same education for about a third less than what it currently costs.

O’Neill, who is also a Dartmouth College professor, said Hanover is at risk of becoming a “property tax gated community.” During the recession, O’Neill said, some residents weren’t listening to others who stood up and said they have lived in Hanover their entire lives and can no longer afford it.

“I feel like there is this amazing momentum to keep spending that really I don’t approve,” O’Neill said.

The $12 million Hanover School District budget, which includes the Ray School, also passed by a large majority, 655-133.

The $24 million Dresden School District budget passed 1,098-460. The district also presented voters with a $225,000 article to construct a softball field in Norwich, where a baseball field already exists.

The money would also be used to build a covered pavilion. The article passed 813-704.

Sarah Brubeck can be reached at sbrubeck@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.

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