By Paul Conyers
The Londonderry Capital Improvement Committee came together for its Nov. 28 meeting to review recommendations for some ongoing Capital Improvement Plans.
Comprehensive Planner, Amy Kizak, was at the meeting to give an overview of some suggestions on recommendations from the School Board.
The focus was on changing how different spending criteria are scored in the plan as it’s currently written.
“It has been requested that we review the plan to make them a little bit more even on the town side and the school side. There were evaluation criteria that the School District had trouble with,” said Kizak. “We want to see if we could come up with a more equitable set of criteria.”
Proposed changes from the School Board included an alteration in wording to prioritize school safety programs. The current wording on the Capital Improvement Plan emphasizes “emergency, public safety, or school safety need” for security funding. Removing the word “or” would put school safety on equal footing with emergency services and public safety. There was little debate over this change.
Another suggestion was for new work to emphasize improved educational services meant to emphasize educational job development and increase the tax base.
The Committee expressed concern over tying school spending to another spending. The argument was that grading criteria on the Capital Plan already lacks clarity. Many items seem to contain spending suggestions for both town and school expenses, even when unrelated.
“Who made the decision that each line needs to take care of the town and the school?” asked Steve Breault of the Budget Committee. “At the end of the day, everything is going to be ranked based on importance.”
He added that a member of the School Board might rank something different than a member of the Town Council based on perceived importance. “I have a problem with every single line having to relate to both sides of the government.”
“It’s critically important that projects clearly articulate how items should fit into the criteria,” said Committee and Planning Board member, Jeff Penta. “I think clarity would go a long way to allowing the Committee to have what it needs to make a proper assessment.”
A suggested improvement was to put more detail into each spending line. While some worried that such a change would make an already long Capital Improvement Plan even longer, more detail would increase clarity.
Kizak added that public meetings for the Improvement Plan happen specifically for clarification. They allow questions and discussion on any item, including how to grade each item.
The Committee unanimously voted to recommend changes that would prioritize school safety in the Improvement Plan, though they did not agree to make a change to how items are graded in the Improvement Plan text.
The next meeting of the Londonderry Capital Improvement Committee has not yet been scheduled.