Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative School District approves use of funds to curb deficit

WILTON – On Nov. 9, voters in the Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative School District voted to allow the School board to use $184,811 in extra state funds to reduce a deficit in the current budget. It was close vote – 87 yes to 74 no, using a requested paper ballot.

The Budget Committee did not take a position on the question.

The money is from increases in the state Adequate Education Grant (RSA198:41).

The current budget totals 12.7 million dollars.

Since the extra funds would normally have been used to offset the tax rate, the tax rate in both towns will rise.

Most of the dozen people who spoke during the meeting asked how the school board, and the superintendent’s office, could have a deficit of over $305,600.

The reasons given by the superintendent included items underfunded, left out of the budget, or incurred after the budget was adopted. Unbudgeted items include new teacher orientation, summer custodial work, and kindergarten screening.

Unanticipated costs incurred after the budget was created include increases in health insurance and other costs related to new staff. There were also several new special education students with a cost of $95,208, leaving almost no fund balance.

Wilton resident Ruth Smith said she didn’t understand how items could be overlooked. “They are things I believe should have been obvious.” Figures were questioned at the budget hearing, she said, but they were not satisfied. “I have no confidence in Superintendent (Bryan) Lane to produce accurate figures.”

Former School board member Fran Bujak defended the board. “Some things are not controllable. You can have no idea in March who will be hired in June. We usually don’t have large numbers of retirees as we did this year. Special Education costs can’t be anticipated. We have put together an in-house (special education) program saving us money.”

Board Chairman Matt Ballou outlined the steps the board would take to curtail costs and still meet the needs of the students. The current budget has been frozen. The voted money will be placed in a special account and not spent without a vote of the board. There will be no budget transfers this year or next. Nothing will be purchased without approval of the administration.

Some purchases will be postponed. Outside security cameras will not be purchased, a sprinkler system for the athletic fields will be delayed, fewer books will be purchased for the library.

Superintendent Lane said it is hoped that these measures will reduce the deficit to $45,000, resulting in a balance that can be returned to the towns.

Lyndeborough resident Donald Anderson noted the number of people in the district who are on fixed income and who work two jobs to make ends meet. “The budget was approved by the voters. If the board can’t stay within (that budget) how can they stay within it now? The towns have always been supportive of the schools, even though it was never in the top ten in the state.”

Moderator Walter Holland thanked everyone for coming and said, “Come back in March and bring your friends” to the annual budget hearing and district meeting.

He also suggested that residents attend the monthly meetings of the school board.

According to Budget Committee Member Lisa Post, the Committee met on Wednesday, Nov. 6, and took a vote of no confidence in the administration which included the school board.