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Residents Approve Cut to Croydon Village School Staff, Reject Police Chief’s Raise

  • Principal Kelly George talks about the student-to-teacher ratio at Croydon Village School during Town Meeting at Town Hall in Croydon, N.H., on March 17, 2018. The School Board proposed to go from three full-time teachers at the K-4 schoolhouse to two teachers. (Valley News - Carly Geraci) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Steve Broke, left, talks to Muriel Broke, both of Croydon, N.H., while voting during Town Meeting at Town Hall in Croydon, N.H., on March 17, 2018. Voters approved the town and school budgets. (Valley News - Carly Geraci) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Russell Edwards, of Croydon, N.H., walks to his seat during Town Meeting at Town Hall in Croydon, N.H., on March 17, 2018. Voters approved a school budget that reflects an 8 percent decrease in spending to $1.24 million. (Valley News - Carly Geraci) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Barbara Harding talks during Town Meeting at Town Hall in Croydon, N.H., on March 17, 2018. Residents voted against the proposal made by the police chief to increase his pay by 43 percent.(Valley News - Carly Geraci) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 3/18/2018 12:29:43 AM
Modified: 3/19/2018 10:55:30 AM

Croydon — Voters on Saturday approved the town and school budgets but defeated a proposal from the police chief to increase his pay by 43 percent, a change he said was necessary to match an increase to the road agent’s compensation.

The proposed $1.28 million school budget, which reduces the number of full-time teachers at the K-4 Croydon Village School from three to two passed, despite an attempt from the floor to add an educator back in.

The police article, which would have increased Chief Richard Lee’s $17.50 hourly wage by $7.57, was not recommended by the Selectboard.

“We do not feel that you should just correlate one to the other,” Selectwoman Carol Marsh said, adding that the road agent had received his raise after a careful review and the same process should be applied to the chief.

Lee went through a brief history of his service to the town, which began on a part-time basis in the early 2000s, when he was still working for the Newport Police Department. After he retired, he was able to work for Croydon while receiving health benefits from the state, but residents’ demand for his services kept increasing, he said.

“The more I was here, the more citizens asked me to do this, do that,” he said.

Lee said he ended up working dozens of unpaid hours, and during his regular hours was paid at a rate slightly less than the road agent’s — an arrangement he said he understood and accepted, given that town officials said they didn’t have the money to pay more.

But “that obviously wasn’t a factor,” he said of cost considerations, “when the town put in a 39 percent raise for the road agent.”

“We need a road agent, though,” a voter shouted, putting emphasis on the word “need.”

Residents amended the police budget down to negate Lee’s proposed raise, giving him only a 2-percent cost of living increase, and passed it, at $39,157.

The overall municipal budget — not including the police budget, which was broken out for the raise discussion — passed, at $465,000.

Toward the end of the town portion of the meeting, Selectboard members informed the public they had received a request for a paper ballot no-confidence vote on the police chief; however, they said, it arrived too late to be acted on. No further discussion or voting took place on that item.

Residents also approved a proposed ordinance that would open some of the town’s roads to off-highway recreational vehicles. The article was a nonbinding advisory vote for the Selectboard, which has final say.

Some voters expressed concern about the potential for noise and difficulty of enforcement, but the article passed, 47-33. Selectboard members and others noted that voters may decide to repeal an ordinance if a trial period doesn’t go well.

During the annual school district meeting on Saturday afternoon, resident Amanda Leslie moved to amend the Croydon Village School budget up by $59,000 in order to cover the pay and benefits of a teacher the School Board eliminated in its latest proposal.

“This is long overdue,” School Board member Jim Peschke said, arguing in favor of the cut.

Peschke, who narrowly lost re-election earlier in the week, said three full-time teachers, plus a number of paraprofessionals, part-timers and aides at the 27-student school, were “too much.”

“It’s not something the town can afford — should afford,” he said.

Sitting next to him was Thomas Moore, who won the School Board race, 69-65, and said he supported keeping three teachers.

Other residents argued that the Village School has had larger classes in the past, and that other districts have much larger class sizes.

But Moore said class sizes didn’t give the full picture of the strain on staff, because teachers are spending extra time and energy individualizing the material to children in several different grades.

“It’s important to remember that you’re teaching a bunch of different levels,” Moore said. “You will be stretching a teacher to try to accommodate all those children.”

The amendment to restore a teacher failed by voice vote, and then the main budget passed, also by voice vote.

In other business, school voters nixed a proposal to empty the $94,000 school transportation capital reserve fund and use it to buy down the coming year’s tax rate. Residents pointed out that the district might miss that money if, in the future, it ran into trouble with the company it currently contracts with for bus service.

Despite a $15,771 decrease in gross school spending, the latest budget is expected to lead to a tax levy increase of about $100,000. This is because school officials used a large surplus to offset the tax rate this past fall — an option not available this year.

Rob Wolfe can be reached at rwolfe@vnews.com or at 603-727-3242.




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