Amherst School District deliberative session uneventful; on to election day

AMHERST – Although a decrease in revenue to the Amherst School District for fiscal 2015 would force a tax hike for property owners, the bump is mitigated somewhat by the fact the district’s proposed operating budget stands about $31,000 less than the current budget.

The budget was so easy to accept, it received unanimous backing and drew no comments from the roughly 30 voters who turned out to the district’s Deliberative Session on Saturday, Feb. 1.

Also receiving the blessing of school officials, the Ways and Means Committee and residents was Article 13, which asks voters to approve about $332,000 to fund the district’s two-year contract agreement with the Amherst Teachers Association.

The entire warrant now goes on the School District ballot, which voters will consider along with other town and school matters from 6 a.m.-8 p.m., March 11, at Souhegan High School.

They will also fill two Amherst School Board seats that come up for election this year. Both are three-year terms. They’re currently held by Amy Facey and Paul Prescott.

The Amherst School District governs Clark and Wilkins elementary schools and Amherst Middle School.

Longtime School District moderator Carol Holden announced at the outset that she was presiding over her final deliberative meeting.

“This is my swan song,” she said of her decision to not seek re-election.

School Board Chairwoman Peg Bennett presented Holden with flowers, and district officials thanked her for her long service.

Holden said Nate Jensen is running unopposed as her successor.

Bennett also made a sad announcement, notifying the gathering of the recent death of Janet Gustafson, the daughter of Nancy Head, a longtime Amherst educator and volunteer and former School Board member.

Gustafson, for whom Bennett asked for a moment of silence, died Jan. 22 in Derry after a battle with cancer. She was 54.

As for the proposed $24.33 million operating budget, its passage would result in a property tax increase of 8 cents per $1,000 valuation for Amherst residents, which comes to $26 per year for a home assessed at $330,000.

If the teachers contract proposal passes, the tax impact would be 21 cents per $1,000 valuation, or $69 for a $330,000 home.

Should the proposed budget be voted down, the district would revert to the default budget, which is set at $23.97 million, about $360,000 less than the proposed budget.

Bennett said in reference to the ATA contract that members have been working without a contract for a year, and that they agreed to receiving no retroactive pay raises for that year.

Funding the second year of the contract would cost $183,000, for a total of about $516,000 over its duration. The agreement also does away with what Bennett called one of the more expensive health insurance plans.

Ways and Means Committee member Donni Hodgkins called the agreement “reasonable for these times” in announcing the committee’s unanimous decision to recommend its passage.

Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 594-6443 or dshalhoup@nashua Also, follow Shalhoup on Twitter (@Telegraph_DeanS).