Under the big prime, Winchester sends school warrant to ballot with minor tweaks | Local News

WINCHESTER – Around 100 voters gathered under a large tent in the Winchester School parking lot on Saturday for the district’s annual advisory meeting, and at times the meeting was the energy and enthusiasm of a circus performance.

A resounding applause broke out, for example, when the residents sent the district’s budget proposal of 12.4 million US dollars unchanged to the May vote. The article was passed by vote, with just a few no.

School board chairman Lindseigh Picard said Saturday that this year’s budget proposal will restore athletics and transportation to high schools, as well as eight jobs. This includes bringing back three of the nine apprenticeships that were cut last year, four of the nine paraprofessional positions and one of the 1½ positions that were previously eliminated.

“We just wanted the public to know that the two committees worked very hard to reach an intermediate agreement on some of the most important things that were cut from our budget last year,” Picard said, adding that both schools The board of directors and the budget committee unanimously recommended the budget proposal.

Voters will have the final say on the budget and the remainder of the warrant in the May 11 elections when the vote at Winchester School is from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. If voters reject the proposed budget, the default budget of $ 11,610,865 will take effect.

Aside from the budget proposal, voters on Saturday sent the remainder of the warrant to the vote with only minor typographical changes during the roughly hour-long session postponed from January due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The article that sparked most of the discussion includes a call for $ 400,000 to be raised to close a $ 745,402 deficit that the district confirmed last fall.

The deficit has developed over the past eight years because the district did not conduct annual financial audits between 2012 and 2016, Picard said. In response to a question from town-based Jim Wallace, Picard noted that this happened before sedentary school councilors or district administrators were in their current roles.

Picard added that the deficit was not due to the district overstretching its budget. Rather, she said the lack of audits resulted in the district overestimating the amount it hadn’t spent in the budget at the end of those years, returning more than necessary to residents in the form of reduced tax rates.

Wallace criticized the district’s previous lack of audits and the impact the deficit had on taxpayers.

“The problem is the RSA [section requiring school districts to conduct audits] was not followed. No audit was done and now we are behind [nearly] $ 750,000 over the course of a few years, “he said.” … As a taxpayer, that’s pretty daunting. “

In addition to the $ 400,000 warrant article, the district plans to use $ 125,000 from the district’s Special Education Trust Fund to pay for the deficit after the school board decided in January to transfer that money from the trust fund. District officials believe they can make up the remaining $ 220,402 with excess funds by the end of the next fiscal year.

If voters don’t approve the $ 400,000 warrant article, the district won’t be able to use year-end tax surpluses to lower the tax rate until the deficit is cleared, Picard said.

Theresa Sepe, the only member of the Winchester Budget Committee who did not recommend the article on the deficit, said she opposed it because she believes it will lead to an inappropriate property tax burden for residents.

“As a member of the Committee on Budgets, I have to make a decision and consider everything related to the taxes that people face,” she said.

After the meeting, Picard said she was glad the budget, deficit item, and a two-year contract proposal with the Winchester Teachers’ Association had gone to the vote unchanged.

“All of these things are needed and we look forward to moving forward,” she said.

The proposed collective agreement with the Winchester Teachers’ Association provides for pay and performance increases estimated at $ 64,118 between 2021 and 22 and at $ 63,903 for the following year. Additional articles ask voters whether to add up to $ 25,000 to the district’s expendable special education trust fund from an unreserved end-of-year balance and $ 125,000 to the district’s capital reserve fund for building improvements.

Next month’s voters will also vote for school district officials. In the only race, four candidates fight for two seats on the Winchester School Board. Picard is running for re-election, and Aaron Bittner, Lindsey Hildreth and Autumn Laraba are also seeking three-year terms.

However, a household name will not be on the ballot. After 23 years as the district moderator, Henry AL Parkhurst, a retired public school teacher and long-time former state official who also serves as Mr. Pickle, the mascot of the annual Winchester Pickle Festival, is looking for no further tenure.

At the end of the consultative session on Saturday, Winchester Town presenter Denis Murphy presented Parkhurst with a commemorative gavel and several gift certificates to thank him for his service.

“The only thing I was hoping you would give me was a new knee,” said Parkhurst, drawing laughter and cheers from the crowd as the meeting ended.

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