Expanded kindergarten proposed for Amherst school

AMHERST – Money to expand the kindergarten program at Clark School and to build a new running track at Souhegan High School will be on school district warrants for election day, March 10.

But in the meantime, voters can debate and amend warrant articles at Deliberative Sessions next week.

On Monday, Feb. 2, Mont Vernon and Amherst residents can review the Souhegan Cooperative School District warrant, which includes the $220,000 article for a replacement track, half of which will come out of the cooperative district’s expendable trust fund.

The meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the high school.

The track is the original one from when the school was built in the early 1990s and is full of cracks and ruts, said School Board member Christine Janson. It was resurfaced about 10 years ago and can’t be resurfaced again.

Five years ago a study of the high school found that the track was a “major concern” because of safety, she said, and “it’s used so much,” not only by the high school, but also by the middle school and the town recreation department.

The Souhegan district operating budget is proposed at $18.1 million, an increase of $37,845, or .21 percent more than the current budget.

At the Souhegan budget hearing earlier this month, school officials said the underlying objective of the spending include keeping class sizes at the high school at around 20 and maintain the school’s zero drop out rate.

The Amherst School Board’s proposal for all-day kindergarten, to begin in the fall of 2015, is on the warrant for the Deliberative Session on Tuesday, Feb. 3.

Kindergarten expansion would cost $620,593 to pay for additional staff – three teachers plus support staff – and curriculum development and equipment. School officials say the program is important for the children’s social and emotional development and to meet new educational standards.

The estimated tax impact for the kindergarten is 39 cents per thousand of assessed value.

The Amherst School District Deliberative Session is scheduled for 7 p.m. in the high school.

The operating budget for the elementary and middle schools is $25 million, a $306,454 increase, with an estimate tax impact of 38 cents.

Driving the budget increase are the costs of a collective bargaining agreement with teachers, as well as retirement system costs, special education and a new transportation contract.

Mont Vernon school

Mont Vernon School Deliberative Session is scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 4, at 7 p.m. in the Village School.

On the warrant is a three-year teachers’ contract that would cost taxpayers $57,863 in 2015-16.

The budget hearing presentation showed that Mont Vernon teachers make significantly less than teachers in Amherst and Souhegan, with the average salary for Village School teachers at $54,684, compared to $67,353 for Amherst School District teachers and $68,129 for Souhegan.

The tax impact of the collective bargaining agreement is 23 cents for the first year and 22 cents each for the second and third years.

The district’s operating budget is proposed at $4.7 million, an increase of $484,194, or 11.42 percent.

Driving up costs are an Amherst Middle School tuition increase, special eduction costs, retirement system increases and a new bus contract, according to the district officials.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or
kcleveland@cabinet.com.