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March 11. 2013 11:22PM

School budget top issue on Derry ballot

DERRY - Voters who go to the polls today will have their say on an $81,903,691 school budget for 2013-14.
That budget figure has ignited some controversy throughout the town, as the School Board originally brought forward an $81,103,691 budget to the district deliberative session in February.

However, an amendment to increase that figure by $800,000 passed by a 49-34 vote on the meeting floor. Proponents of the increased amendment stated they hoped the increase would lead to the addition of 14 positions that had been cut from the district in the presented budget.

State Sen. Jim Rausch has said the increased school budget could help make Derry's property tax rate the highest in the state.

Rausch noted that the amount of the school budget raised through property taxes was initially slated to increase by just over $6 million for 2013-14. With the successful vote to increase the budget by $800,000, he said that number now goes to almost $7 million.

Much of the increase in the amount of the budget shifted to local property owners is the result of state retirement and other state and federal costs being shifted down to the local level.

"If the estimates are true, we will have a $33.45 tax rate, which I'm almost positive would be the highest in the state," he told the Town Council.

School Board members have defended the school budget and said they brought forth a responsible budget.

"There has been a lot of discussion since the deliberative session about the budget we passed and the process of the deliberative session," said board member Dan McKenna. "I want to remind folks that this was a responsible budget that was set forth. The budget at the deliberative session was a 1.6 percent increase (over the current budget) and the large part of that increase was due to retirement costs that were sent down from the state."

Also on the school side of the ballot, there are four candidates for three seats on the School Board, with incumbents Ken Linehan and Brenda Willis joined by newcomers Jeri Murphy and Melanie Davis.

On the town side, two of the three Town Council races will be contested. For the at-large seat, incumbent Joel Olbricht is facing a challenge from Mark Osborne.

In District 2, incumbent David Milz is being challenged by Tom Cardon. In District 4, Albert Dimmock is the only candidate on the ballot looking to succeed Brian Chirichiello, the current councilor who decided not to run for reelection in town.

Dimmock currently serves on the town's Zoning Board of Adjustment and Highway Safety Committee and is also a familiar sight at Town Council meetings, where he often makes the most of the public discussion portions of the meeting.

Another familiar face in town politics, former councilor Janet Fairbanks, is running for town clerk against incumbent Denise Neale.

There are also six proposed changes to the town charter on the ballot, including measures that would give the Town Council the authority to decide if a town administrator has to live in Derry when a contract is signed, do away with the $1 filing fee for candidates for public office, do away with language referring to the defunct East Derry Fire District in the charter, and tie the town's tax cap through the northeast regional Consumer Price Index as opposed to the national CPI.

Polls will be open today from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Districts 1 and 3 will vote at the Hackler Gymnasium at Pinkerton Academy, District 2 at Cavalry Baptist Church, and District 4 at Gilbert H. Hood Middle School.

aswift@unionleader.com


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