Amherst says no to school budgets, all-day kindergarten

AMHERST – Frugal voters last week rejected a plan for full-day kindergarten as well as both school districts’ operating budgets, while electing a fiscally conservation candidate to the Souhegan School Board.

The election day vote on all-day kindergarten, which would have cost $620,000, was 1,086 yes to 1,1782 no.

“It came down to money,” said Elizabeth Kuzsma, a kindergarten advocate, who said she and her husband Rich are not discouraged and will continue to campaign for it next year.

Advocates had said 5-year-olds need the additional time in school and all-day kindergarten will draw young home-buyers to the town.

The Mont Vernon Village School, which feeds students into the Amherst Middle School, will have all-day kindergarten in September, at no extra cost to taxpayers, because there is already enough space and staff due to declining enrollments.

David Chen was elected to an Amherst seat on the Souhegan Cooperative School Board. A member of the district’s finance committee, along with his opponent, Dwayne Purvis, Chen was one of two committee members who did not support the budget. At the district’s deliberative session last month he said school costs don’t reflect its declining enrollments.

Default budgets for the two districts will now go into effect.

For the middle and elementary schools that could mean cuts in school supplies, textbooks, science equipment and non-union salaries.

An exception to the general frugality was a positive vote for a new track for the Amherst-Mont Vernon high school. Half the $220,000 cost will come from a previously established trust fund.

On the town side, the operating budget survived by a healthy margin, but voters rejected a plan to build new sidewalks on portions of four village roads.

Last month selectmen learned that expected federal grant money was not available so instead of $28,000, the project would have cost $328,000 for one and a half miles of sidewalks on Jones Road and on portions of Mack Hill, Manchester, New Boston and Boston Post roads.

A plan to replace town bridges at Thornton Ferry and Mont Vernon roads easily passed, and voters gave selectmen formal intervener status in the natural gas pipeline project when it goes before regulatory boards.

Money for a mosquito surveillance and control program passed easily.

There will be two new members of the Board of Selectmen, as Reed Panasiti, who served on the board from 2006 to 2009, and Nat Jensen, a member of the town Ways and Means Committee, were elected to take the place of Brad Galinson and Mike Akillian, who decided not to run again.

Lisa Eastland won a very close race for Cemetery Trustee, beating Cynthia Dokmo by five votes, 1,123 to 1,118. Dokmo did not ask for a recount. Norman Carnick, who had dropped out of race earlier, got 180 votes.

All Amherst zoning questions passed, except for a petitioned article to change the status of a lot near the Bon Terrain industrial park from
residential/rural to industrial.

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