Shaker Board hears yearly meeting with selectmen is not enough

BELMONT — At a Shaker Regional School Board meeting last night to which the Belmont Selectmen were invited, Selectman Jon Pike said that one meeting annually was "inappropriate."

"You've asking us for policies and plans we haven't discussed yet," Pike said in response to Chair Heidi Hutchinson's request that the selectmen tell her board what is happening in the town that effects the school.

He said he was "bewildered" because in his recollection this meeting was only the second one he can recall in his years as selectmen.

The meeting is the second in two years where the two boards were scheduled to get together and discuss commonalities between the town and the school district. Last year's selectmen's meeting between Superintendent Maria Dreyer and the selectmen produced a more cooperative use of the school's sports facilities and the town's Department Parks and Recreation.

Selectman Ruth Mooney said she thinks there should be a school district budget committee, like the one the town has had for years. She said taxpayers automatically assume that if their bills go up "it must be the school."

"A second set of eyes can't hurt," she said noting that a school district budget committee could also take the blame off the school board for its budget.

Pike said the town was "out of money" and he and Mooney agreed that since they learned that Gilmanton's tax rate went down, Belmont taxpayers have been contacting them about why Belmont's rate didn't also drop.

Pike also mentioned that if everything was "for the kids" he was on board but if things were such that someone was "making money on the kids" then he was out. With that statement he left.

School Board members took the comment in stride, saying little to Pike's commentary or Mooney's budget committee suggestion.

Hutchinson said the Shaker Board was looking at its long-term capital budget as it prepares for the upcoming budget year. She said there is a "bubble" of students in the Belmont Elementary School and the Belmont High School is at 93 percent of its student capacity.

As for updates on the town side, Town Administrator Jeanne Beaudin said the town had altered the employee insurance plans with an eye toward 2014 and the time that the town could face tax penalties under the Affordable Care Act for so-called "Cadillac" insurance plans.

All agreed that the two boards should be meeting at least four times a year so policy and planning especially for budgets can be consistent.