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Petitioned warrant article would give Gilmanton Schools a tax cap

  • Published in Letters

To The Daily Sun,

Dear Gilmanton residents:
It's budget time once again for fiscal year 2014-2015. Last year the School Board presented us with a budget that they said was absolutely necessary to run the school, and the town voted to approved it. That resulted in a surplus of over $1.1 million of your tax dollars.
As a result of their ever increasing surpluses each year ($900,000, approximately, last year), I have submitted two petitions to the School Board, signed by folks from our town, that will become Warrant Articles for you to vote for at our March 11, 2014 Town Election.
One article will be to revoke the Gilford High School Tuition Expendable Trust Fund. By continuing this fund, you are essentially being taxed twice — once for the actual students who attend Gilford High School and a second time for "phantom students" who may or may not move into town during the school year. We have a contract (AREA Agreement) with Gilford which covers all tuition needs for our high school students. If the School Board reads the contract and follows it, they would see that there is no need to double tax us.
The second Warrant Article is to apply a Tax Cap upon the school's operational budget for a period of three years. That simply means their budget for the next three years will be based upon the previous year's approved budget, with adjustments for contractual obligations, debt service, and one-time items.
This has been successfully applied to other school districts in New Hampshire and has reduced their budgets without depriving the students of the essentials necessary for a comprehensive education. Since our School Board chairman has stated openly in school board meetings over the years that the Gilmanton School Board produces the budget for the school, so they don't accept the recommendations from the Town Budget Committee or the people of Gilmanton, we must do something to make this School Budget Committee responsible to the taxpayers.
By reducing the operational budget, we do not reduce the contractual salaries of the teachers, reduce the ability of the school to give our children the best education available, or take away any programs in the curriculum. It will merely require the School Board's Budget Committee to find line items in the budget where they have over reached or included funding for something that "might happen", but usually doesn't. This will reduce the budget to a more reasonable amount and, in turn, reduce our taxes. Our town selectmen have done this with the town's budget over the years and still manage to run the town without cutting services to the people.
We have a system within the School Board's Budget Committee that is broken. Over the years we the people have tried to work with them by using simple methods to make the budget manageable. Sadly, the common response from the School Board or superintendent is to say that reducing the budget will only mean making painful cuts to the ongoing operation of the school. Clearly, if you end up with a surplus in excess of $1.1million, we are not being told the whole truth.
So, please come out to vote at the Town Election on March 11 and vote "YES" for both of these Warrant Articles and "NO" to the school budget. It takes a 3/5 majority to pass each of these Warrant Articles so every single vote counts. If you cannot come to the polls, contact our Town Clerk's office and ask for an absentee ballot. Your voice cannot be heard if you don't speak out. And always remember, IT'S YOUR MONEY!
Elena Ball
Gilmanton Iron Works