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Friday, March 9, 2012

Brookline approves school repairs, raises at annual meeting Wednesday

BROOKLINE – Roughly 100 people took two hours and 20 minutes to decide on the year’s spending for the two elementary schools, approving by overwhelming margins repairs to the buildings and raises for teachers and support staff.

“Each of your votes is going to carry a great deal of weight,” Town Moderator Peter Webb said at the start of the annual School District Meeting Wednesday night.

Voters approved all articles without amending them, including a $505,000 appropriation for a new roof to Capt. Samuel Douglass Academy, the building where the meeting convened, as well as a partial new roof and related repairs to the Richard Maghakian Memorial School.

The 12-year-old roof on the Capt. Samuel Douglass Academy is deteriorating a few years short of its 15-year life span, School Board Chairman David Partridge said.

Partridge cited an inadequate ventilation system which baked the roof shingles as the cause.

The district could delay part of the roof work, Partridge said, but doing it all now would save money in the long run.

The new roofs will have a 30-year guarantee.

The three-member Finance Committee did not recommend the full capital spending, member Chris Adams said, adding that putting off portions of the work would ease the burden on taxpayers.

Voters, however, seemed to agree with Selectman Clarence Farwell, who said there are “two things you should definitely take care of: foundations and roofs. Let’s do it right.”

An amendment to halve the bond failed, and Article 2 passed by more than the two-thirds it needed.

Budget down, taxes up

A $8.4 million school operating budget, which is down slightly from the 2011 budget, was also approved,

It maintains the current level of education, Partridge said, and savings were achieved by reducing out-of-district special education placements, participating in an electric cooperative and other cost-savings measures.

“There are no significant new programs,” he said. “We tried to maintain what we have and spend no more than we have to.”

Even though the budget is down, taxes will go up by 3 percent, Adams said, because revenue, particularly revenue from the state, has gone down. The Finance Committee supports the budget “reluctantly,” he said.

Two articles covering costs of staff contracts, $32,135 for the first year of a two-year teachers contract and $21,045 for the third year of a support staff contract, were approved overwhelmingly.

Brookline’s share of the SAU budget, $261,105, passed with a show of cards, and so did an article that will add $10,000 in surplus money to a maintenance fund for school facilities.

Adams projected a potential Brookline tax rate for 2012 of $26.38, which includes the elementary schools, the cooperative middle and high schools, and town, state and county rates.

That’s an increase of $2.30 per thousand, or $800 on a $350,000 house.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100, ext. 304, or kcleveland@nashuatelegraph.com.