BELMONT — Eighty-three residents of the Shaker Regional School District have petitioned to have the school district adopt the provisions of the Official Ballot Law, or RSA 40:13, commonly known as SB2, which changes the annual School District Meeting to a deliberative session only, with voting to take place later along with the election of school officials.
If passed by a 3/5 majority of those voting at the polls on March 4, the Shaker Regional School District will follow the town of Belmont by joining the ranks of communities and school districts that have adopted SB2 as their form of town and school district voting. Canterbury, which is also served by Shaker Regional, is not an SB2 town.
"I want them accountable for every dime," said Belmont Selectman Jon Pike, who is leading the charge for SB2 at the school district. "I think this is a way for people to stop complaining about their taxes.
Pike and former Belmont Budget Committee member Ken Knowlton are still stinging from last year's School District Meeting, when voters flooded the meeting and added about $250,000 to implement full-day kindergarten at Shaker Regional when the administration and School Board wanted to wait until this year. Voters also added an additional $58,000 for a fourth science teacher after the School Board and administration said they could do without the position.
SB2 splits the annual meeting into two portions: the first is called a deliberative session and is where people gather in an official room and discuss and possibly change some of the items on a proposed school district budget, just like the typical School District Meeting. Any votes taken are simply to approve wording of the articles to be presented to voters.
The second portion of SB2 provides for a ballot vote, both on the proposed operating budget and any number of warrant articles that may or may not include money provisions.
Critically, to Pike, is that SB2 provides for a review by an elected Budget Committee and it is the Budget Committee's recommended budget that goes before the voters. Presumably, like the School Board, the Budget Committee would be composed of members from Canterbury and Belmont.
According to petitioner Norma Patten, this is at least the second time voters have tried to petition to move to SB2. She said it failed two years ago.
Patten, who said she is very supportive of the school district, said she is also encouraged by the fact that for the first time ever, to polls at the Belmont High School will be open for eight hours. Prior to this year, polls opens only a few hours before the annual School District Meeting began at 7 p.m.
"This way people have a whole day to vote," Patten said.
Polls for the Shaker Regional School District Election Day open at 11 a.m. and will end at 7:15 p.m. for Articles 1, 2 and 3, which are to elect School Board members, a district moderator and to vote on SB2. All voting will be at the Belmont High School. The annual School District Meeting will begin at 7 p.m. on Friday, March 4, at the high school.
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