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Voters to deliberate 12 percent increase to tax rate at annual school meeting

By Lloyd Jones
CONWAY — A 12 percent increase to the overall school tax rate is what voters are expected to discuss at the deliberative portion of annual Conway School Meeting Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the Loynd Auditorium at Kennett High School.
On Feb. 14, the budget didn't receive the warmest of receptions from the Conway Municipal Budget Committee. Budgeteers cut just over one percent of the school budget after having talked at length in recent weeks about the need for major cuts.
The total proposed operating budget excluding special articles is $33,137,099 (school board had recommended $33,509,885, but the committee cut $372,786 from the bottom line). The default budget, which would kick in if the proposed budget is voted down, is $33,635,533.
The budget committee approved a budget of $33,137,099 by a 9-7-1 vote (Greydon Turner, Brian Charles, Maury McKinney, Mike DiGregorio, Maureen Seavey, Michael Fougere, Karen Milford and Syndi White in the minority with Steve Steiner abstaining). While the budgeteers did approve a budget figure, they were by no means happy with the potential hit to the taxpayers' wallet.
"The problem still as I see it is the property taxpayer can't afford to pay this increase," Mark Hounsell, budget committee member, said. "A 12 percent increase is just too much, we have to do something."
Last year's adopted budget was $31,901,212. Conway's share of that price tag is roughly $16 million, with the sending towns (Albany, Bartlett, Eaton, Freedom, Jackson, Madison and Tamworth) picking up the rest of the tab.
Voters at deliberative meeting can amend the budget. Final voting will take place Tuesday, April 9, at the Conway Community Building from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
There are 15 warrant articles, including one submitted by petition, totaling $1,179,545, that are not part of the presented budget.
Other warrant articles and votes are:
No. 2 is the Kennett High facilities maintenance fund for $54,443 ($35,652 will be offset by sending towns). Supported by the board 7-0. Supported by the budget committee 13-3-1 (Hounsell, John Edgerton, Bill Marvel in the minority with Steiner abstaining).
No. 3 is Kennett Middle School facilities maintenance fund for $17,086 ($7,581 to be offset by sending towns). Supported by the board 7-0. Supported by the budget committee 14-3 (Hounsell, Edgerton and Steiner in the minority).
No. 4 is elementary schools' facilities maintenance fund for $9,900 ($1,267 to be offset by sending towns). Supported by the board 7-0. Supported by the budget committee 12-4-1 (Hounsell, Edgerton, Doug Swett and Steiner in the minority while Marvel abstained).
Articles 2-4 are required under the 20-year tuition contract with sending towns Albany, Bartlett, Eaton, Freedom, Jackson, Madison and Tamworth.
No. 5 is the operating budget.
No. 6 seeks voter approval to authorize the school district, indefinitely until rescinded, to retain year-end unassigned general funds to exceed, in any fiscal year, 2.5 percent of the current fiscal year's net assessment. Such fund balance retained may only be used to reduce the tax rate for emergencies to be approved by the Department of Education. Supported by the board 7-0. Not supported by the budget committee 16-1 (White in the minority).
No. 7 is for a two-year collective bargaining agreement between the school board and the Conway Education Association (teachers). It seeks $230,371 for 2013-14 and $266,740 for 2014-15. Board supports 4-1 (Dick Klement in the minority). Not supported by the budget committee 5-12 (Seavey, Hounsell, Fougere, Charles and White in the minority).
No. 8 is for Project SUCCEED (Schools Under Contract Creating Enriching Extended Days) at John Fuller, Pine Tree and Conway Elementary for $44,305. Organizers of the program anticipate $20,000 in revenue to offset taxes, and additional grants would be sought. Supported by the board 6-1 (Klement in the minority). Supported by the budget committee 9-8 (Steiner, Hounsell, Danielle Santuccio, Peter Donohoe, Turner, Edgerton, Marvel and Swett in the minority).
No. 9 is for the school buildings' maintenance fund for $100,000 (the fund will be capped at $500,000). Supported by the board 6-1 (John Skelton in the minority). Not supported by the budget committee 8-8 (Charles, DiGregorio, Seavey, Fougere, Maury McKinney, Milford, Mosca and White in the minority).
No. 10 is a capital reserve fund for buses in the amount of $174,000 for the purchase of two school buses for the 2012-13 school year. Supported by the board 7-0. Supported by the budget committee 15-1 (Edgerton in the minority).
No. 11 is for the first of a three-year phase for the Conway School District's technology plan, $75,000. Supported by the board 7-0. Supported by the budget committee 10-7 (Steiner, Marvel, Edgerton, Santuccio, Swett, Donahoe and Hounsell in the minority).
No. 12 is for an expendable trust for special education for $100,000 (the fund will be capped at $500,000). Supported by the board 7-0. Supported by the budget committee 10-7 (Edgerton, Milford, Marvel, Steiner, Donohoe, Swett and Karen Umberger in the minority).
No. 13 is for $95,700 to replace a portion of roof at Conway Elementary School. Supported by the board 7-0. Supported by the budget committee 11-6 (Edgerton, Milford, Donohoe, Marvel, Swett and Steiner in the minority).
No. 14 is petitioned article seeking $12,000 to continue Tin Mountain Conservation Center science and natural history programs in the three elementary schools. Not supported by the school board 4-0-1 (Klement, Lynne Brydon, Janine McLauchlan and Kelly Murphy oppose the article while Skelton abstained). Not supported by the budget committee 14-3 (McKinney, Charles and DiGregorio in the minority).
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