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Bow voters authorize AREA agreement with Dunbarton

BOW - Voters overwhelmingly approved an Authorized Regional Enrollment Area (AREA) agreement with Dunbarton at its annual school district meeting Friday night.

Article 4 was approved 301-10 in favor of accepting Dunbarton middle and high school students beginning in the fall of 2014, but Dunbarton voters must also approve the agreement at their annual meeting March 16 in order for it to move forward.

Dunbarton's current AREA agreement with Goffstown and New Boston expires on June 30, 2014.

Bow Superintendent Dean Cascadden said student population in Bow schools has declined 21 percent in the past 10 years, a trend he expects to continue.

If approved by Dunbarton voters, the agreement could mean as much as $2 million a year in revenue for Bow.

"There is a significant revenue line associated with Dunbarton," said School Board Chairman Robert Louf.

Estimated tuition payments for Dunbarton students are $9,137 at Bow Memorial School and $12,291 at Bow High School, but those payments are expected to change by the 2014-2015 school year.

Cascadden could not pinpoint how the revenue would affect the Bow tax rate, but Louf said budget surplus is normally returned to taxpayers.

Deb McCann, who sat on the Bow-Dunbarton AREA committee, spoke in favor of the agreement.

"I really have confidence with the people who steward this district, that they'll work collaboratively with the boards," she said. "We are not looking for tenants, we're looking for a partnership with Dunbarton."

In response to a resident's question about a possible downside to the agreement, Cascadden said one concern is how the students from the two towns will mesh.

"Bow is a very special place, right now we're one town," he said, adding that he has heard of a "this is our town" mentality, and some parents have expressed concern about space on sports teams if there is an influx of students.

School board member Pansy Bloomfield said, "For me, the biggest down side is if we don't make this happen."

The vote came after voters gave a resounding approval of the district's $25.8 million budget, which was up $97,000, or 0.39 percent, over last year.

But with a decrease of about $560,000 in revenue, residents can still expect a tax hike of about 62 cents per thousand dollars of assessed home value, or $155 on a $250,000 home.

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