Londonderry voters can expect to see an increased school budget on next month’s ballot. The annual deliberative session at Londonderry High School last Friday night, Feb. 9, brought up six warrant articles for consideration ranging from the operating budget to new bleachers for the high school.
The hour long meeting went along with only one hiccup that may cost the town some money.
Article Two gave voters a choice between the school board’s proposed budget, which asks for $73,473, 218 and the default budget, which asks for $73,068,347, a difference of $404,871. When broken down, the school board’s budget will have an estimated tax impact of $13.57 versus the default budget’s estimated impact of $13.46. The school district budget was unanimously approved by the Budget Committee and was voted three to one by the school board, with Steve Young voting no and Nancy Hendricks being absent from that meeting.
Young defended his vote, saying, “there are items in this budget I feel we could have lived without. And one of them is the district office.”
Young had voiced his concern about the price tag of a new district office, which is included in default budget as well and has an estimated cost of $165,000 a year, according to Young.
“If the default budget passes and the school board budget does not pass, the district office goes through but the school programs are cut,” said Young.
State Rep. So Baldasaro also expressed his concern with the new district office, asking the board what other options were considered.
He inquired if the board had thought about just getting the HVAC system replaced in the current building instead of leasing a new set of offices.
“Have you worked with the town,” he asked.
Business Administrator Peter Curro answered that “we went through nine iterations,” and the best long term option was to have a new district office.
The school board’s budget is over $400,000 more than the default and Superintendent Scott Laliberte said to those present that the district is “preparing to grow.” The increase, he tried to explain, is to prepare for a future increase in enrollment. Right now the district is “growing in some areas and shrinking in others,” according to Laliberte. He defended the number by saying it’s more of an investment into the future education of Londonderry students. The goal of the board’s proposed budget he said, is to continue to offer the current programs and services to students while fixing “short term problems.”
“The quality of education is something that is recognized beyond our city,” said Laliberte. He quoted polls ranking the town as the eighth best school district in the state, and third best in the Class L division.
“We need to make sure we prepare for that growth before that growth arrives,” said Laliberte.
After the public hearing, a motion was made to move article two to the ballot. After the voters approved the move, Kathy Wagner asked about an amendment to the article. The moderator, Cindi Rice Conley allowed a vote to reconsider the question, which failed. The amendment was for two alternatives to the current plan for the district office. It was written by Bob Slater, a 30-year resident. His plan could have saved an estimated $218 off the total operating budget by installing 5760 square feet of “office pods” behind the high school for five years or by reducing the amount of square footage of the new district offices from 10,175 to 5656.
The voters present ultimately moved the school board’s budget to the ballot.
The other articles were all moved the ballot as well. They include $2,936,000 for the school lunch program, $625,000 for the School Buildings Maintenance Expandable Trust fund, $150,000 for the Equipment Capital Reserve Fund and $300,000 for the lease/purchase of new spectator bleachers for the high school.
Voting on these measures will be on March 13 at the LHS gym from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.