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Friday, February 11, 2011

Proposed budget ends up lower than 2011

HOLLIS – The School Board’s proposed 2012 operating budget is lower than the one it put together last year.

And if voters approve it at the March 14 annual meeting, taxpayers can expect to shave off a little from the tax rate: an additional 50 cents for every $1,000 of property valuation.

The $10.7 million budget is $584,811 lower than last year’s budget, which was $11.2 million.

The owner of a $350,000 home would be paying $2,142 for the local school portion of the tax bill.

On Wednesday, during a public hearing on the budget and six other warrant articles that will go before voters next month, the School Board, the Budget Committee, and an audience chiefly made up of teachers and parents, discussed, and argued over, the School Board’s proposed spending plan, particularly the reduction of 12 paraprofessional jobs in the special education program.

School Board Chairman Bill Beauregard explained that the lower budget is the result of $1,006,194 in decreases, including the elimination of one-time expenses such as mold remediation at the Hollis Upper Elementary School last year, cuts to the special education staff, and reductions in principals’ office salaries, health insurance, salaries for classroom teachers and part-time aides, and several other categories.

But it wasn’t all cuts. Proposed budget increases totalled $430,278 and include changes in salaries for classroom teachers, special education services, water system maintenance, and more.

The total cost of operating the school district, however, includes expenses associated with warrant articles that ask voters if they want to pay $8,000 into a maintenance fund for the administrative buildings on Lund Lane and $4,000, to be amended upward at the annual meeting, for a school building maintenance account.

An article asking voters to authorize the district to apply for state and federal catastrophic funds for special education has no tax impact, and a petition warrant article asking voters to approve a special meeting to adopt collective bargaining agreements is illegal, according to Bill Drescher, the town’s attorney.

In addition, there is no tax impact, up front, if voters approve an article that would give taxpayers oversight of the School Administrative Unit’s annual budget, which this year is $1.33 million.

Hattie Bernstein can be reached at 673-3100, ext. 24, or hbernstein@cabinet.com.