Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative School District voters increase budget by $81K

WILTON – After more than an hour of discussion, almost 100 voters at the annual Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative School District annual meeting on Saturday morning increased the budget proposed by the Budget Committee by $81,000.

Former School Board Member Fran Bujak, who offered the amendment, said it was a compromise, half way between the Budget Committee’s proposal and what the School board had originally asked for. The School Board’s requested budget was $163,000 higher than the Budget Committee’s proposal of $12,598,674.

The amendment passed 52 yes to 46 no, and then the amended budget passed, 72 yes to 27 no. Both votes were by secret ballot. The adopted budget totals $12,679,674 for school year 2019-2020.

Bujak asked if the proposed budget was “last year’s budget plus contractual obligations,” and was assured that it was, an increase of $129,669, or 1.03 percent.

Bujak said the voters needed more information as to where in the budget the $163,00 would be taken. “This is the first time in my 30 years of experience that this has been done. We have no idea what will be cut.”

He pointed out several areas in the proposed budget that were lower than last year: utilities, electricity, telephone and communications, and books and printed media.

Superintendent Bryan Lane said no decisions had been made, but there were several areas of anticipated revenue that would offset some of the reductions. He said all decision are made by the School Board.

Bujak asked “what (larger) number the SAU would be comfortable with,” and Lane replied, “$10,000 to $15,000.”

Bujak said it was “extremely irregular to ask the voters to vote on a budget when no one knew the numbers.”

Former Board Member Geoff Brock said he agreed with Bujak. “I appreciate the desire to save money, but we need to know where cuts are from. This budget fails to recognize that everything costs more.”

Budget Committee Member Lisa Post said, “We considered everything. We know people are having trouble paying taxes.”

Other residents speaking were about evenly divided for and against, and several thanked the board and committee for the amount of work they had put into the budget preparation, and most agreed they had the students’ interests at heart.

It was noted that during the budget preparation, neither group was unanimous in support, both at the end voting 5 to 4 in support. Lyndeborough resident David Roemer called it “a perfect budget,” one that showed a lot of time and effort had been spent, and showing support for both options.

The only other warrant article asked for $60,000 to be added to the Building/Equipment and Roadway Capital Reserve Fund, which passed on a voice vote with no discussion. The major improvement currently underway is the replacement of the roof of the middle/high school, a five-year project. The chimneys at Florence Rideout Elementary School are scheduled to be repointed.

School Board Chairman Harry Dailey, who presented the budget explanations at the opening of the meeting, extended his thanks to the Budget Committee for their work and to all residents who had attended various hearings during the preparation.