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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

$2.9m bond for repairs at Souhegan High School survives deliberative session

AMHERST – A $2.9 million facilities bond for repairs at Souhegan High School remained unchanged after the Souhegan Cooperative School District’s Deliberative Session on Monday night.

The bond, which would span 10 years, is needed to address pressing structural issues the main building is now facing, School Board members said at the meeting.

Members said they chose for voter consideration in March the most critical of the roughly $14 million in repairs and renovations outlined in a recent survey by Gale Associates: replacement of the main building roof and HVAC units, upgrading the substandard interior locking system, and repairs to the campus roads and parking lots.

Members said there have been no major structural or systems upgrades since Souhegan was built in 1991.

“Our biggest fear is a catastrophic failure of the roof or other main systems,” member Mary Lou Mullens said, adding that several roof leaks have recently been reported, especially over the gym.

The article needs a three-fifths majority to pass. The proposed $18.55 million fiscal 2012-13 operating budget and four warrant articles, including the bond for repairs at Souhegan High School, now go before voters in March.

The cooperative district includes voters from Amherst and Mont Vernon, and is one of three districts that come under SAU 39. Voters from the two towns will go to the polls on Tuesday, March 13, to elect candidates for School Board and other district offices and vote on the warrant articles.

A few of the roughly 40 attendees asked questions and challenged some of the figures, but no amendments were made.

If approved, the operating budget would increase the school portion of property taxes in Amherst by 25 cents, to $8.08 per $1,000 valuation, a roughly $81-per-year increase on a home assessed at $325,000. Mont Vernon taxpayers would see an increase of 28 cents, to $8.36 per $1,000 valuation, an increase of $112 per year on a home assessed at $400,000.

Should the budget be voted down, a default budget of just under $18.4 million, roughly $172,000 less than the proposed budget, would take effect. Under the default budget, Amherst taxpayers would pay 9 cents per $1,000 less than if the proposed budget passed, while Mont Vernon residents would pay 10 cents less.

The other articles going to voters in March include Article 4, which would transfer $65,000 to the school maintenance fund from the undesignated fund if a surplus exists July 1; and Article 5, which asks voters to approve the establishment of a private expendable trust fund to build, improve and maintain school athletic fields and facilities.

Such a fund, board member Pim Gronstra said, would be barred from accepting taxpayer dollars.

Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 673-3100, ext. 303, or