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Annual Meeting preview: Claremont School District keeps spending simple with just a budget vote

Published: 2/24/2021 9:41:38 PM
Modified: 2/24/2021 9:43:59 PM

Pandemic Precautions: Because of COVID-19, drive-thru voting on the Claremont School District warrant will be conducted from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 9, at three locations. Ward I will vote at Stevens High School; Ward II, Claremont Middle School; and Ward III, Disnard Elementary School.

Budget: The only appropriation on the school district warrant this year is the proposed $37.78 million budget for the 2021-22 school year.

School Board Chairman Frank Sprague said there are no separate warrant articles because last year voters approved using almost $3 million in one-time state money for several capital projects and establish two reserve funds for building renovations and bus repair and replacement.

The budget represents a net spending decrease of just over 1%, or about $417,000, and if approved by voters would add 60 cents to the overall school tax rate, increasing it to $23.45 per $1,000 of valuation. It would add $90 in school taxes to a property assessed at $150,000. The default budget of $37.76 million would add 57 cents to the school tax rate.

The budget’s increases and decreases are mostly in the areas of special education and maintenance. The board cut $1.5 million from the maintenance line item, which is about half of the one-time revenue the district received from the state last year.

Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations Richard Seaman said special education costs are projected to increase in several areas, including $1.18 million, or 18.6%, at Stevens High School, mostly for two out-of-district placements. A program at Bluff Elementary School to keep elementary-age special needs students in the district adds $342,000, but special education out-of-district costs at the elementary level are down $400,000, or 77%, to $120,000.

There were also staff reductions — mostly through attrition — that cut $584,000 from the budget.

State revenues fell $2.6 million, requiring an increase in the amount to be raised by taxes of $541,000. Tuition revenue is up $150,000 and the district will use a combined $800,000 from its fund balance and expendable trust to offset taxes.

School Board races: In uncontested races, incumbent Heather Whitney, newcomer Joshua Lambert and former board member Steve Horsky are running for three three-year seats on the School Board.

Annual Meeting under COVID-19: The ballot will also ask voters if they approved of the annual meeting process this year, which included two online sessions via Zoom and drive-thru voting. If not, the results shall be “deemed disapproved,” as stated in a state law passed last year in the pandemic. In that case, another meeting could be held prior to Sept. 1 to adopt an operating budget or the School Board may deem that voters adopted the prior year’s operating budget. Elections would remain in effect.

— Patrick O’Grady

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