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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Souhegan security upgrade plan done

AMHERST – Residents approved the only amendment – the School Board’s motion to “zero out” the article calling for $380,000 in Souhegan High School security upgrades – that came before them at Tuesday night’s Souhegan Cooperative School District Deliberative Session.

The district’s proposed 2011-12 budget, an $18.4 million package that represents a $71,500, or 0.4 percent, increase over the current budget, drew several questions and comments from residents but no amendments, and thus goes as-is to voters at the March 8 election.

The other warrant article that drew brief discussion, Article 3, calls for $115,000 to fund the first year of a two-year agreement between the district and Souhegan High School’s Professional and Support Staff. It represents a 1 percent increase in 2011-12, which is largely mitigated by a reduction in the district’s cost for members’ prescription benefits.

The article also calls for $250,000 to fund raises of 1.75 percent in the second year of the agreement. If the article passes this year, that amount would be part of the 2012-13 operating budget.

Because the district is a cooperative of students from Amherst and Mont Vernon, residents of both towns attend the Deliberative Session and vote on its budget and other articles on the district’s annual warrant.

As for Article 5, which originally called for just under $380,000 to install a computerized, remote-control lockdown system in Souhegan High’s main building and annex, School Board member Pim Grondstra proposed the amendment, which effectively takes the article off the table, as soon as he finished reading it.

Grondstra and board Chairman Steve Coughlan told residents the School Board decided, after discussing the article in detail at a recent meeting, to hold off on the request.

They cited the difficult economic times and the potential for a heavy tax burden, especially for Mont Vernon residents, already associated with proposals in this year’s warrant.

The matters, along with electing candidates to open School District offices, will be taken up at the polls March 8. Amherst residents vote at Souhegan High between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m., while Mont Vernon residents cast ballots between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. at the Village School.

Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 673-3100, ext. 31, or