Voters in the Monadnock Regional School District on Tuesday approved nearly the entire warrant, including a $32.5 million budget that is 2.6 percent lower than the school board’s initial proposal, but narrowly rejected an $840,000 project to replace unit air ventilators at two schools.
That project, which would have replaced ventilators in about 25 rooms total between Gilsum STEAM Academy and Monadnock Regional Middle/High School in Swanzey Center, failed by four votes, 1,108-1,104. The ventilators were installed in the 1980s and are nearing the end of their working life, district officials have said. The school board supported that article, but the budget committee did not.
The two groups did agree in their recommendation to raise $299,999 for engineering and design work on a plan to consolidate some of the district’s elementary schools, a measure that voters approved 1,365-833. That plan, which the school board approved in October, would combine Swanzey’s two elementary schools into one and also renovate schools in Fitzwilliam, Gilsum and Troy.
With the voters’ OK, the district now will work with an architect to draw up blueprints for the renovations and apply for state funding for the project next year, before putting a bond issue before voters in 2023. The district hopes to receive about $11.4 million in state funding for the project, while another roughly $14.6 million would come from a bond issue, which taxpayers who live in the district — which covers Fitzwilliam, Gilsum, Richmond, Roxbury, Swanzey and Troy — would pay over 20 years.
If voters approve the bond in two years, construction would start that spring, and the renovated schools would begin reopening in the fall of 2024, according to information provided by the district.
In the meantime, the district will need to identify budget cuts, which require school board approval, in response to the lower budget voters approved Tuesday, 1,281-935. Superintendent Lisa Witte said previously that the budget committee’s $855,000 reduction to the district’s original budget proposal could result in the loss of at least 10 staff positions and other programming cuts.
Several budget committee members, though, have argued the cut would help the district avoid running a large surplus, as it has for the last four years. Dan Coffman of Swanzey, the budget committee member who moved to reduce the original budget proposal, said he calculated the lower budget by averaging the district’s surpluses over the past four years — which have ranged from $1.3 million to $2.4 million — and slicing that figure roughly in half. He added that the district “would figure out a way” to avoid cutting staff or supplies if the lower budget passed.
If Monadnock voters had rejected the budget proposal, a $33,564,758 default budget would have taken effect.
Voters approved the rest of the district’s warrant Tuesday, including a trio of staff contracts. A one-year contract with the Monadnock District Education Association, which represents teachers, guidance counselors, librarians and nurses, passed 1,130-1,066. The contract includes wage and benefit increases estimated at $315,447, a 2.3 percent increase over the current year.
A two-year collective bargaining agreement with the Monadnock Educational Support Staff Association, which represents administrative assistants, paraprofessionals, custodians and maintenance workers, passed 1,131-1,055. The contract includes wage and benefit increases estimated at $91,431 for 2021-22 and a two-year estimated total increase of $186,797.
A three-year collective bargaining agreement with the Specialists of the Monadnock District, which represents psychologists, occupational therapists and speech pathologists, passed 1,488-677. The contract includes wage and benefit increases estimated at $33,269 for 2021-22 and a three-year estimated total increase of $76,692.
There were no contested races for positions in the Monadnock district this year. Incumbent Moderator Bill Hutwelker won another one-year term with 1,750 votes in the only district-wide race.
In Swanzey, Brian Bohannon and Cheryl McDaniel-Thomas won re-election to three-year terms on the 13-member school board, with 815 and 763 votes, respectively. For the two open seats for three-year terms on the budget committee for Swanzey, incumbent Dan Coffman received 760 votes and newcomer Melissa Diven earned 734.
School board Chairman Scott Peters of Troy won re-election with 172 votes, and Adam Hopkins of Troy, the current budget committee chairman, won another three-year term with 175 votes.
School board member Kristen Noonan of Fitzwilliam also won another term with 318 votes. And though no one filed to run for the open school board seat in Roxbury, incumbent Nicholas Mosher received two write-in votes, making him the winner of that race.
Overall, 2,308 of the district’s 10,544 registered voters turned out for the annual meeting Tuesday. Voting was conducted at polls in each of the district’s member towns.