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Librarian Will Stay Full Time In Tunbridge

Residents Restore Funding for Job, Authorize Rest of School Spending

Tunbridge — The librarian at Tunbridge Central School won’t see a reduction in her hours next school year, after all.

At the annual School District meeting Monday night, a resident offered an amendment to restore funding to the position — reversing a decision by the Tunbridge School Board to cut roughly $24,000 in funding for the position.

Residents voted 58-41 to restore that money to the budget and keep Elaine Howe in the library full time.

“Yes!” Howe said, while throwing her hands above her head in pure joy after ballots were cast.

Howe, who has worked at the school for 30 years, said it would not only have been devastating for her, but also the students.

A stipulation under the cut meant students would have had to do more “content” reading, versus free reading when utilizing library time.

For example, students in a science class would be guided to read a science-based book — instead of a book of their choice.

Resident Jennifer Young said after the meeting that a school library is not something to be messed with.

“I think library reading services are very important for a child’s development,” Young said. “The fact that the board was voting to cut the services, goes to say how bare bones the budget is.”

Resident Grey Barreda said learning in the library at Tunbridge Central was crucial to his success in school.

“It was where I learned the most,” Barreda, a 1992 graduate, said. “It’s very important.”

Others felt differently.

“Everything is going up, somebody has to say no,” resident Mike O’Donnell, who voted against the amendment, said after the meeting.

The fine print in Howe’s job description means she is a librarian 75 percent of the time, and a librarian aide — where she assists other teachers — 25 percent of the time. The cut would have reduced hours under both of her duties, thus affecting what the students read.

“The intent of the reduction wasn’t about reducing library staff, it was about what type of reduction could we live with,” Tunbridge School Board Chairwoman Lorinda Oliver said.

There was a bit of confusion that echoed among the nearly 100 residents inside the school’s gymnasium Monday night when someone pointed out errors in the annual Town Report.

The amount of money budgeted for various departments — such as guidance, staff support services and the school library — was off in the printed report.

Oliver said: “For whatever reason, the numbers were inaccurately put into your report.”

Despite the glitch, the proposed budget — which voters ultimately passed 78-32 — was spot on.

Voters approved a $3.1 million budget, which represents an increase of more than 1 percent, or about $55,000, over the current year’s spending.

“I am trusting that the School Board did a diligent job,” resident Lenora Kimball, who voted in favor of the budget and the amendment to restore funding to the librarian’s position, said in an interview.

The budget didn’t sit well with others, though.

“I think more could have been cut,” O’Donnell said.

Based on projected data from the state, the tax rate is expected to rise from $1.34 to $1.42. On a $200,000 home, owners who aren’t in the state’s income sensitivity program would see a tax bill of $2,840.

Voters Monday night also authorized the School Board to create an account for unanticipated tuition costs.

Donna Benoit, Orange-Windsor Supervisory Union’s business manager, said earlier in the day that establishing the Tuition Reserve Fund will soften the blow if more students than the school budgeted for need to be tuitioned out for secondary school — ninth through 12th grade. Depending on if a student chooses to attend a private or public school, Tunbridge residents are required to pay anywhere between $14,000 to $19,000 per student, Benoit said. The school has roughly 65 tuition students.

“This fund is to help cushion the unanticipated costs,” she said, noting the district experienced a $110,000 deficit last year primary due to unexpected tuition costs. Roughly $858,000 is budgeted in fiscal year 2014-15 for tuition students.

Liz York, a 10-year Tunbridge resident who has served on the town’s Planning Commission, was elected to the School Board and will serve a three-year term. She will fill Oliver’s seat, as she decided not to seek another term.

Tunbridge will hold its annual Town Meeting today at 10 a.m. at the school.

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