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Grantham School Budget Passes Easily

Grantham — By an overwhelming majority, voters Tuesday night approved a more than 6 percent increase in the operating budget for the Grantham School District.

Hardly any of the 124 voters at the meeting spoke against the $509,339 overall increase in the school budget. The $8.4 million budget is about 6.4 percent higher than the current school year’s $7.9 million spending plan.

The sole dissenting argument came from voter Wayne Small. “How many people here got a 6.4 percent raise this year?” Small asked. “The percentage of people returning to work is not getting better, the wages are not getting better. … and yet I continue to hear this sucking sound exhibited by the School Board as it asks for more and more money every year.

“I don’t want the best education money can buy,” he said. “I want the best value education.”

Small’s comments largely went unheeded, except for one woman who pointed out that she, like many parents in Grantham, moved to the town because of the caliber of the schools. “We moved here so that our kids could go to school here,” said voter Naomi Hastings. “Not Lebanon, where I went to school, not Claremont not Newport. Grantham — because of the caliber of students this school produces. There is a sense of pride of every student who graduates from this school.”

Once the vote was taken the article passed by a clear majority.

The budget increase can be attributed to several factors including an increase in the number of students at the middle school level to a projected 77 students from 70. As a result, the net increase in the budget is about $110,000, said School Board Chairman Robert McCarthy.

Other major factors behind the increase are health insurance costs, which amount to $96,347 because Grantham is in the newly created risk pool for districts with fewer than 50 employees, which pushes up the costs for the district. That figure represents a 10.8 percent increase in costs, said School Board member Steve Miller.

“We expect (actual costs) will be much lower than that, but we have to plan for the 10.8 percent,” Miller said.

Special education costs are also going up $174,000 in the proposed budget, due almost entirely to out-of-district placements which can cost upward of $100,000 per out of district student. Grantham is planning for three out-of-district students for the next fiscal year.

About $69,000 in contracted salary and benefit increases, new positions and staffing supplies round out much of the remainder of the increase.

The passage of the budget means a tax increase of about $1.13 per $1,000 of assessed value, raising the school tax rate from $14.64 to $15.77, McCarthy said. For a home valued at $250,000, the increase would mean an additional $282 a year in school taxes.

Special articles asking for $50,000 for the Grantham Village School Special Education Expendable Trust Fund and $50,000 to establish a “legal services expendable trust fund” for the purpose of funding extraordinary legal expenses also passed. The passage of these articles adds 20 cents to the tax rate.

Town Meeting will be held on Tuesday, March 11, at 5 p.m., in the Grantham Town Hall to act on the warrant articles. Voting by ballot will be held from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. to elect town and school officers.

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