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Please vote 'yes' for renovating Alton Central School for $4 million

  • Published in Letters

To The Daily Sun,

I believe that most everyone knows me or my reputation. There is no one in the last 10 years who has recommended more cuts to the Alton and Prospect Mountain High School Budget than me. I question every line and every penny. I have been a local pain in the butt to both the selectmen and the School Board. I am not afraid to say what I believe and let the chips fall. I do not have a political agenda. I have an Alton agenda.

Most important, I did not drink the "Kool Aid."

What I am about to tell you is that what my heart says is important, and that what we need is your vote and support to take care of our kids at the Alton Central School.

Last year Alton voters sent us a message which we heard loud and clear.

That message was: We will not spend $18 million because we cannot afford it. We have not spent all your money authorized in the capital expendable trusts. We do not need a new gym. We do not need a geothermal heating system. Our enrollment is no longer increasing, so we do not need to expand. We do not want a new building but we want to fix the one we have. We want some relief from the PMHS bond maturing. We need to get rid of the four modular classrooms. We need a fire suppression system that we have already expendable trusts have mostly paid for.

We are doing what you asked us to do. Instead of creating a wish list, adding in all the accessories we would like to have in a perfect world and then borrow the money whatever the amount, and ultimately hope you will unconditionally pay for it, we wanted to do it the right way this time.

Like any good business board of directors, like any fiscally responsible adult, we first asked, "What can we afford?" Just like you, we asked each other how much house or school can we afford to buy? What is our budget? What size school can we buy and keep to our budget?

We learned a few lessons from the last deliberative meeting. Spending $18 million for a new school is way over the top. That is the same as being able to afford a $400,000 house but instead applying for a $2 million mortgage.

My recommendation of a $7 million compromise, might have passed, but was zeroed out by Mrs. Tilly (75-49), from the floor. The vote was close, but still a ways from the 3/5 majority needed for a bond to pass. One of our most fiscally conservative citizens, Ray Howard, amended the $18 million to be reduced to $4 million which was also brought to a vote and lost by another narrow margin.

The bottom line of all this is the kids lost and were sentenced to spend at least another two years in old modular classrooms in need of replacement themselves.

That is how we came up with $4 million. You told us that $4 million might be doable if we can make a significant difference, have a plan that makes fiscal and economic sense, take care of all the critical problems in the school that we all agree on, and make sure our most financially vulnerable citizens can afford it.

We may not be the smartest pups in the litter, but we (the School Board) believe that we understand your charge and have made every possible effort to do what you want us to do: Keep our children safe.

First, get rid of the modular classrooms. We have used every penny we have to get rid of the two modular classrooms in the front of the building and move the kids inside. Unless you are willing to increase the average class size from 19 to 30 there is no more room at the inn. If you want your kids learning about health in the boys' locker room, watch them fall going to and from the modular classrooms during the winter, and have them remain the target of choice for some crazy person with an assault rifle, just raise your hands. If not vote yes for the renovation.

We have to upgrade the boys and girls bathroom in the 1956 wing, literally. It is an embarrassment, because it is the main public bathroom in the school, and because it is the bathroom closest to the nurse's office. This bathroom needs to be the most sanitized place for the public and most important for our sickest children. If anyone here does believe that fixing this bathrooms should not be a top priority I would like you to visit them and see for yourselves.

We need to spend the money in the fire suppression fund ($221,000), that you the voters authorized, instead of letting it sit there for another five years drawing 1 percent interest. New Hampshire fire code law states that if you have a fire suppression system (Anyone willing to raise his hand and vote against a fire suppression system in an elementary school, after mostly paying for it already?) you must have a fire alarm system. If you have a fire suppression system you must have a fire alarm system. It's the law. Does anyone here think the fire department need not be notified about a fire in an elementary school raise your hand? Seeing none ...

Next, as long as we have to rip out the ceiling for the fire suppression and alarm system it makes sense to replace the ceiling and lighting. It will never be cheaper and we can save almost 20 percent of the total cost instead of doing it piecemeal. You want us to save money and be fiscally prudent, then that is exactly what we are doing. We are putting in environmentally safe lighting and taking out the old inefficient florescent bulbs. We will get rid of all the unsafe exposed wiring on the walls and along the floors, add outlets, and essentially do what we want Northern Pass to do, "bury the power lines." If anyone does not think exposed wiring is a safety priority for our kids then raise your hands.

We need the administrative offices in one place centrally located instead spreading them a football field apart. Anyone who has worked in a business or been part of a management team knows that management is best centralized due to communication issues, response issues, leadership issues, and just plain common sense.

Here is how the bottom line numbers work out. The currently available interest rates to borrow $4 million range between 3.5-4 percent depending upon maturity and the loan provider which would be either a local bank or the N.H. Municipal Bond Bank.

The estimated tax rate impact should be between 32 cents and 59 cents per $1,000. As an example, for a $250,000 home the additional property tax will be about $80 to $147.50 a year.

Whether or not you think money will be cheaper next year, or the economy will be all our kids need to be in the same warm protected building today. Quality education begins with eliminating basic wants such as shelter and security. A protected, safe, secure, and toasty environment is the very least we should do for them.

We need your help in March to make this all happen. Please vote yes to renovating our Alton Central School — not for me — not for you — but for our kids.

Steve Miller

Member, Alton School Board