Londonderry voters will head to the polls on Tuesday, March 10 to make several important decisions for the Town, such as whether to move forward the process of building a community auditorium and whether to hire additional firefighters.
Although there are no contested races for school or town officers, there are several articles on both the Town and School District’s 2015 Warrants that have been hotly debated.
The polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the Londonderry High School gymnasium.
Running for re-election to the School Board are Chairman Leitha Reilly and Steve Young.
Incumbent Vice Chairman Jim Butler is also running unopposed for the one open seat on the Town Council.
Incumbent Gary Vermillion is seeking re-election to the Budget Committee for a three-year term; incumbent Sherry Farrell, for re-election as Town Clerk for a three-year term; James Hooley, for election to the Budget Committee for a two-year term; and incumbents Carole Introne and Betsy McKinney for election as Trustees of the Leach Library for three-year terms.
No one has filed to run for either of two, three-year terms as Trustees of the Trust Fund.
The positions could be filled by write-in candidates, according to Town Clerk Kathleen Donnelly.
“If there are write-in candidates, the top two write-ins would be asked if they would like to serve. There’s no threshold, they don’t need a certain number of write-in votes. If they refuse to serve or there are no write-ins, the Town Council, in conference with the Town Manager, would reach out and ask people if they would be willing to serve,” she said.
Although there are no contested races on the ballot, Town Council Chairman Tom Dolan encourages voters to participate in the upcoming election, noting the financial impact the warrant articles have on all taxpayers.
“We have two governments, the school and town, and they financially have the greatest impact on our voters – much more than the national election,” Dolan said.
The Town’s 2015 Warrant is as follows:
Article 1, Election of Officers.
Article 2, to raise $100,000 for the Maintenance Trust Fund to support repairs and maintenance to town facilities. The article has no tax impact. The Council and Budget Committee recommend the article.
Article 3, to raise and appropriate $28.5 million for the Town’s operating budget for FY2016, resulting in a tax impact of $4.80. The Council voted 4-1 to recommend Article 3, with Councilor Joe Green opposed. The Budget Committee voted 7-0 in support of the proposed budget.
Article 4, to raise and appropriate $491,523 from the Police Outside Detail Fund to cover Police Outside Details. The allocation would have no tax impact, as the services are funded through user fees. The Council and Budget Committee recommend the article.
Article 5, to raise and appropriate $2.6 million to fund the Sewer Fund, which would defray the cost of construction, payment of interest on any debt incurred, management, maintenance, operation and repair of constructed sewer systems. The article would have no impact on the tax rate, as the allocation is funded through user fees. The Council and Budget Committee recommend Article 5.
Article 6, to raise and appropriate $50,000 for Fire Department equipment. The allocation from the Town’s June 30 fund balance would be used to purchase three mechanical CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) devices for the Town’s life support ambulances. The article would have no tax impact. The Council and Budget Committee recommend the article.
Article 7, to raise and appropriate $500,000 for the Town’s Roadway Maintenance Trust Fund for the maintenance, replacement, removal or improvement of the Town’s roadways; and to authorize the use of $250,000 of the June 30 Fund Balance toward the appropriation. The article would have a tax impact of $.07 per thousand assessment and was recommended by the Council and the Budget Committee.
Article 8, to raise and appropriate $120,000 to update and rewrite the Zoning Ordinance in accordance with the recommendations of the Town’s recent Zoning Audit. The article would have no tax impact and is recommended by the Council and Budget Committee.
Article 9, to establish and fund with an appropriation of $28,000 a new GIS (Geographic Information System) Capital Reserve to develop, maintain, enhance or acquire data, software and/or hardware resources to be used by or integrated with the Town’s GIS program and to appoint the Town Council as agents to expend the reserve. The article would have no tax impact and is recommended by the Council and the Budget Committee.
Article 10, to appropriate $295,000 to the Capital Reserve Funds to expand cemeteries, and to replace highway heavy equipment, fire equipment and highway trucks. The article would authorize the Town to use June 30 fund balance toward the appropriation and would have no tax impact. The Council and Budget Committee recommend the article.
Article 11, to raise and appropriate $105,000 to hire one or more additional full- or part-time police officers to fulfill the functions of school resource officer. The article results in a tax rate impact of $.03 per thousand and is recommended by the Council and the Budget Committee.
Article 12, to discontinue the Ambulance Capital Reserve Fund, which was created in 1996. The funds in the account would be transferred to the Town’s General Fund. The article results in no tax rate impact and is recommended by the Council and the Budget Committee. Moving forward, the Town plans to lease its ambulances, which is more cost effective, according to Town Manager Kevin Smith.
Article 13, to authorize the Conservation Commission to purchase a 26-acre easement on Kimball Road, just north of the Londonderry Country Club. The Commission would purchase the horse farm from Leah Doyle outright for up to $500,000. The Commission would offer Doyle a 99-year lease, as well as write into the deed that the property could not be developed in the future. The article has no tax impact.
Article 14, a citizen’s petition to raise and appropriate $263,144 to hire four additional firefighters on a staggered schedule throughout the year. The warrant article would increase daily staffing levels from nine to 10 firefighters on a 24-hour basis. It has a tax impact of $.07 per thousand. The Town Council voted 2-2-1 to support Article 14, with Councilors Tom Freda and Green voting against the article and Jim Butler abstaining, as his son is the president of the Firefighter’s Union.
Articles 15 through 20 authorize the Town Council to call special meetings on cost items should they fail in the election.
If all articles on the Town’s 2015 Warrant pass, the tax rate would be $5.13 per thousand, a decrease of $.04 per thousand from last year’s tax rate, according to Smith.
The School District’s 2015 Warrant is as follows:
Article 1, Election of Officers.
Article 2, to raise and appropriate $67,764,153 as an operating budget for the 2015-2016 school year, as amended at the School District’s Deliberative Session to include an additional $240,000 for elementary teaching assistants. The budget has an estimated tax impact of $12.65. The default budget is $67,906,417, with an estimated tax impact of $12.69. The School Board voted 1-4 on recommending the budget, as amended, to the voters. Nancy Hendricks voted in favor. The Budget Committee voted 7-0 in favor.
Reilly said it’s unfortunate the Board’s vote against the budget could be misinterpreted as a vote in support of the default budget.
“I think it’s fair to say this Board has never wanted to advocate a default budget higher than the operating budget recommended by the Superintendent. As my one-fifth of the Board, that’s certainly not my intention. It’s just an unfortunate happenstance of that vote,” she said. “The Board chose not to express support for the operating budget as amended. The vote was the result of an event that occurred (at the Deliberative Session) and it was the only opportunity for the Board to express that opinion. It’s unfortunate it will show on the ballot.”
Because the School District operates under a bottom-line budget, the School Board may choose not to allocate the $240,000 addition to the teaching assistants.
“They may spend it on the aides, they could spend it on something else, or they may choose not to spend it at all. They could put a freeze on it for a surplus on June 16 of no less than $240,000,” Business Administrator Peter Curro said.
Another option the Board has is to fund teaching assistant hours up to the $120,000 recommended in the Superintendent’s proposed budget and freeze the remaining funds or spend them on something else, according to Curro.
There will have to be a thoughtful discussion relatively soon after the election to address the additional funding in a way that balances the concerns of the parents with the how-to of the administration, according to Reilly.
While she came to the conclusion the Superintendent’s plan for right-sizing staff was appropriate and could have been executed well by school principals and teachers in the elementary schools, Reilly said she applauds the parents who attended the Deliberative Session and rallied support for the additional teaching assistants in their children’s classrooms.
“I hope we can alleviate their concerns and get to a point where we address the true concern. What I heard from parents that night was, ‘we’re so afraid of children falling through the cracks,’” said Reilly, noting, if re-elected, she looks forward to discussing a plan that will satisfy parents and operational demands.
Article 3, to approve the teachers’ contract for FY2015-2016 and FY2016-2017, and to raise and appropriate $1.1 million for the 2015-2016 fiscal year for the increases in salaries and benefits. The appropriation will have a tax impact of $.32 per thousand. The School Board voted 5-0 in support of Article 3. The Budget Committee voted 5-1-1 in favor.
Article 4, to approve the cost items in the collective bargaining agreement with the Allied Health Professionals’ contract for $85,321 in FY2015-2016, which has a tax impact of $.02 per thousand. The School Board voted 5-0 in support of Article 4. The Budget Committee voted 7-0 in favor.
Article 5, to authorize a special meeting on cost items, should either the teachers’ or health professionals’ contract fail. The School Board voted 5-0 in support of Article 5. The Budget Committee voted 7-0 in favor.
Article 6, to accept and receive federal grants and other funds for the School Lunch Program and Federal Fund Projects. The funds are self-supporting through local, state and federal revenue sources. The article would have no tax impact. The School Board voted 5-0 in support of Article 6. The Budget Committee voted 7-0 in favor.
Article 7, to raise and appropriate $400,000 to be placed in the School Buildings Maintenance Expendable Trust Fund. The allocation has an estimated tax impact of $.11. The School Board voted 5-0 in support of Article 7. The Budget Committee voted 7-0.
Article 8, to raise and appropriate from the June 30, 2015 unreserved fund balance $100,000 to be placed in the Equipment Capital Reserve Fund, which was created to provide funds to procure essential small equipment for the classrooms, offices, technology and buildings and grounds. The allocation has no tax impact. The School Board voted 5-0 in support Article 8. The Budget Committee voted 7-0 in favor.
Article 9, to raise and appropriate $500,000 to fund the costs of architectural and engineering professional services for construction of a community auditorium at the high school. The allocation has $.14 per thousand tax impact. The School Board voted 4-1 in support of Article 9. The budget committee voted 4-3 in favor.
Article 10, to raise and appropriate $8,069 to fund co-curricular and athletic stipends, which has an estimated tax impact of $.002 per thousand. The School Board voted 5-0 in support of Article 10. The Budget Committee voted 7-0 in favor.
Article 11, a citizen’s petition related to school busing of elementary school students. The Article, which was de-funded during the District’s Deliberative Session, calls for the District to raise and appropriate zero for the additional costs of transportation and to adopt a student transportation policy that includes policies and procedures for school bus stop locations and procedures for determining hazardous roadways. The School Board and the Budget Committee voted unanimously against Article 11.
If all articles on the 2015 Warrant pass, Business Administrator Peter Curro said the tax rate would be $15.67 per thousand.