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Goffstown residents face questions over school budget

GOFFSTOWN - Residents will meet Saturday at Goffstown High School at 10 a.m. to discuss items on the school district warrant.

Voters will be able to amend warrant articles before they appear on the ballot March 12.

If voters approve the school district's operating budget and a bond request for elementary school renovations, they can expect a property tax increase of about $1.23 per thousand dollars of assessed property value, or $270 on a $220,000 home.

Of that figure, $1.03 is the tax impact of the district's operating budget, with a 20-cent increase for the first year's debt service on the bond.

According to figures provided by the school district, the tax increase for the 20-year bond will be about 71 cents per year in its remaining years.

Article 2 asks voters to approve the bond for $14.5 million in renovations and improvements at the town's two elementary schools, Maple Avenue and Bartlett, which will include more classroom space, as well as new bathrooms, computer labs, an administrative area at Maple Avenue and a new kitchen at Bartlett.

School Board member Jennifer Theroux said now is the time to take advantage of low bond rates and construction costs.

"The timing is right as far as interest rates go," she said. "I don't think it's going to get any less expensive."

Theroux said necessary maintenance to the buildings has been delayed because of years of operating on default budgets, and that maintenance is part of the project.

"Some of these buildings are in grave disrepair," she said.

Theroux pointed out that the Board of Selectmen opted not to put a bond on the town warrant for fire station improvements, and that the Budget Committee recommended the article by a majority vote, which is indicative of a larger-scale support of the project.

"We've got to get kids out of the reconfigured closets and bathrooms," she said.

Budget Committee member Ivan Beliveau, who voted against recommending the project, said he doesn't dispute that the repairs are necessary.

"Bartlett is an embarrassment," he said. "These repairs have been needed for years, frankly, they've been needed for decades. . But there has been no talk about how to pay for it."

Beliveau said the size of the school budget, especially in staff compensation and benefits, helped determine how he voted for the bond article.

"We've put a lot into compensation of employees," he said. "It looks like the staff has come ahead of students."

Beliveau said he would recommend cutting employee compensation and using that money for maintenance and repair.

Article 3 on the school warrant is the district's operating budget of $37,311,381, which was a revised budget of the Budget Committee and adopted by the School Board.

The default budget has been set at $36,616,091, about $600,000 less than the proposed operating budget.

According to district figures, the tax impact on the default budget is about 73 cents per thousand, or about $160 on a $220,000 home.

Article 4 asks voters to decide if the school board should elect to retain up to 2.5 percent of unassigned general funds to use as a revenue source for emergencies.

The final article, Article 5, will ask voters to approve a new AREA agreement among Goffstown, Dunbarton and New Boston, which will take effect when the current deal expires in 2014.

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