Merrimack School Board seeks approval for office building
Friday, March 15, 2013
For years, Merrimack School District administrators have been housed in two separate three-bedroom ranch homes built in 1963 that were altered to serve as offices. They are referred to as the “blue building” and “green building,” and neither is handicapped-accessible, which is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Both structures are not up to building code, are overcrowded, and have security and confidentiality issues in each location, said Planning and Building Committee Chairman Rich Hendricks. There are drainage issues in the special services building, and both houses are mold-ridden.
Stan Heinrich, who called himself a “proud member” of the district’s Budget Committee and Planning and Building Committee, spoke in favor of a $1.5 million special warrant article that would construct a special services and central office combination building for district administration at the March 6 Deliberative Session.
“Those buildings are an embarrassment to the School District. I encourage everyone to support this warrant and put the people in charge of our children and (the approximate) $60 million (budget) in an adequate place to work out of,” Heinrich said.
He said district officials have been without an legitimate home for too long. A number of options were researched to try to find the best fit for administration and special services, with constructing a new building as the most viable plan, Heinrich said. The special warrant has a 10-year bond, which was the most fiscally responsible proposal for the district.
School Board Chairman Chris Ortega threw his support behind the proposed building, calling the project “much-needed” and “urgent.”
As expected, the warrant article that features a contract negotiated with the Merrimack Teachers Association was altered at the meeting. The three educators who opted for early retirements will result in a savings of more than $134,000 in the first year of a three-year contract.
The tax impact for Year 1 of the teachers union contract would be 22 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, said district business administrator Matt Shevenelle. This equates to an increase of $44 on the tax bill for a $200,000 home.
Board member Shannon Barnes shared some of the details of the proposed contract. The first day of school will be changed to the day after Labor Day, which will limit interruptions to families for scheduled workshops and half-days. By the end of the third year, educators would foot 15 percent of their health care coverage costs, thus alleviating the district from some of that burden.
According to Barnes, the pay-for-performance program in the amount of $338,000 was eliminated, and some of that funding was reallocated to the monetary compensation grid to offer incentives for teachers who continue their education beyond state minimum requirements.
“It aligns Merrimack with competing districts,” Barnes said about increasing teachers’ salaries. “At this time, we’re between $3,000 and $6,000 below comparable districts.”
The proposed 2013-14 operating budget comes in at $66.3 million. Shevenelle said if everything on the ballot passed, the 2013-14 tax rate could increase by 64 cents to $15.20 per $1,000 of assessed property value.
The majority of the more expensive items in the proposed budget comes from increases in health care and salaries, along with contributions to the state retirement system.
Six teacher positions are expected to be cut if the budget is approved, while three part-time educators have been added.
Two corresponding warrant articles would deplete old reserve funds and reallocate nearly $67,500 into the district’s emergency repair fund.