March 09. 2014 9:51PM

Dunbarton's $5.7 million school budget passes

Union Leader Correspondent

DUNBARTON — Five warrant articles, including the $5.7 million budget, passed at the 128th annual school district meeting on March 8.

The only public comment was a motion by resident Peter Weeks to amend Article 2 by increasing the school board's annual stipend from $1,250 to $2,500, which also passed.

Article 2 also increases salaries of the town moderator from $50 to $100, the treasurer from $250 to $400, and the school clerk from $50 to $100.

Article 3, the $5,778,641 operating budget; Article 4, raising $31,570 and establishing a capital reserve fund for legal expenses; and Warrant Article 5, placing $1,000 into the Kitchen Equipment Fund — plus expected revenues and the state school tax, will increase taxes by about 47 cents per $1,000 property valuation for a projected total tax rate of $15.20, or about $141 for a $300,000 home.

Bow School District Superintendent Dean Cascadden, Goffstown Superintendent Brian Balke and Dunbarton Elementary School Principal Owen Harrington spoke briefly to the 50 voters who attended the meeting. Also in attendance were Duane Ford, Bow's SAU 67 assistant superintendent; Ray Labore, SAU 19 business administrator; and Dunbarton School District special education coordinator Melissa Romein.

In his first year at Dunbarton Elementary School, Harrington said he is impressed with the students and Dunbarton's sense of community.

In welcoming Dunbarton to SAU 67, Cascadden said this will be his first time working with a multiple district, and he is excited about the new AREA partnership.

He invited residents to communicate with him via email, phone or by visiting him in Bow.

Balke, who was named superintendent of SAU 19 on March 6, wished Dunbarton well as it transitions to Bow in September.

"On behalf of SAU 19, it's truly been an honor serving you. You should be proud of your students and teachers. It's a wonderful country school," said Balke, who received many well-wishes on his new job.

Article 3, the $5,778,641 operating budget, reflects a 4.5 percent increase in expenses over last year, mostly due to higher enrollments at the middle and high schools, technology and special education costs, said School Board Chairman Rene Ouellet.

Board member Deborah Trottier said the increase in technology expenses of $36,190 will provide purchases for Dunbarton Elementary School, including replacement desktops for staff, 10 ipads and software, Apple laptop leases and Chromebooks with a cart.

Tuition for high school students increased $74,175 and $32,765 for middle schoolers. The high school tuition for 2014-15 is $1.5 million, a cost of $11,811 per student at Bow High School and a cost of $12,904 per student at Goffstown High School.

Board member Debra Foster said special education costs of $547,447 is a $160,000 increase because of additional enrollment, and takes up 2.9 percent of the budget. Pupil support services in guidance, health, psychology, speech, audiology, physical therapy and occupational therapy cost $334,765.

The district has 66 special education students in the elementary, preschool, middle and high school levels.

"Dunbarton Elementary School staff has been incredible trying to streamline and be efficient as possible. They've come up with creative ways to provide transportation and re-arrange services," Foster said. "We do have a reputation for treating children with special needs very well and fairly, so when people choose to move to a town they look at that."