Wilton and Lyndeborough vote a new school

WILTON – On Friday, March 7, by the slimmest of margins, 345 residents of Wilton and Lyndeborough passed a $8.25 million bond to construct a new combined elementary school in Wilton for grades one to five, and to renovate the Lyndeborough Central School into kindergarten and district offices.

They then agreed to change the Articles of Agreement between the towns to allow it to happen.

Passage of both bond and changes required a two-thirds vote, or 66 percent. The vote on the bond was 232 yes, and 113 no, a 67.2 percent majority. On the changes to the articles, the final vote was 227 yes, and 101 against, a 69.2 percent majority.

Voters also approved an operating budget of $11,550,114 with little discussion on a voice vote, and approved a new three-year teachers’ contract with a first year cost of $105,151, with little discussion or dissent.

The bond proposal was presented by Harry Dailey, vice-chairman of the School Board, elementary school Principal Tim O’Connell, Superintendent Christine Tyrie, and Donald Davidson, chairman of the cooperative Budget Committee.

Two attempts were made to change the wording of the article, first to reduce the bond by $1 million, and then to remove the ability of the School Board to accept state or federal aid. Both failed by overwhelming voice vote.

Dailey said reducing the bond would mean the building would be of poorer quality and the board would not have needed flexibility.

“We could be back here in five or eight years for more resources. We need to build for the future,” he said.

Board member Fran Bujak said the reduction would be a “savings of 12 cents on the tax rate, about $2 a month. We chose a 30-year bond for the tax savings.”

In answer to questions, voters were assured the bus routes would be adjusted to reduce travel time as much as possible, and a professional construction manager would be provided by Hutter Construction Company.

The new school will replace much of the current Florence Rideout Elementary School with a new three-level facility for grades one through five. The 1895 “old building” and the 1930s gym, will be kept and upgraded to standards, with the new school connecting them. The sections to be removed were built in the 1950s and are in poor condition.

Kindergarten, pre-kindergarten and the Supervisory Union offices will be housed in Lyndeborough. Grades six through eight are at the middle school.

Many of the speakers, both for and against, were emotional, eliciting applause from the audience.

State statute requires bond issues to be by paper ballot and that the polls remain open for at least an hour. Following the bond vote, voters took up discussion of the changes to the Articles of Agreement.

Board Chairman Geoff Brock outlined the history of the articles, dating to the late 1960s, which provided that each town would be responsible for its own elementary school and students could not be moved between towns.

“Article 4 (the bond) requires passage of this one,” Brock said.

Davison said, “We voted to consolidate (the districts) but it was a piecemeal consolidation. This would make us truly cooperative.”

The article also changes the funding formula to one where all costs are computed 50 percent on daily attendance and 50 percent on equalized valuation. Currently, capital costs were not included as each town paid its own.

The wording is changed to include the federally mandated pre-kindergarten, which will be housed at Lyndeborough Central. An attempt was made to change the wording to eliminate the pre-K.

The first year cost of the 30-year bond is $206,907. The changes to the Article of Agreement provide that Lyndeborough’s share will $96,564 each year with Wilton paying the remainder, a provision made because of the amount of work to be done at Florence Rideout. Cost between the towns is usually about 70 percent for Wilton, 30 percent for Lyndeborough.

Had the bond failed, voters in Wilton would have been asked for $250,000 for immediate repairs to the school’s heating and ventilations systems plus other needed repairs.

Following the three and a half hour meeting, retiring Budget Committee Member David Roemer was honored for 20 years of service on budget committees in both towns.