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Conway School Board unanimous in budget vote

CONWAY - Conway School Board members voted on Jan. 3 to unanimously recommend a proposed budget for the 2013 to 2014 school year.

The board will present an operating budget of $33,509,885 to the Conway Municipal Budget Committee on Jan. 16.

The board cut a part-time secretary at Kennett Middle School, and a part-time elementary teacher.

In April 2012, voters approved an operating budget of $31,901,212, which had been recommended by both the school board and the majority of the budget committee members. For the 2012-13 school year, voters also approved all-day kindergarten, and $156,018 for extending the kindergarteners' day in the district's three elementary schools. In 2012 there were several warrant articles that approved union contracts. Two of those contract agreements were for two years, and the increased costs are now included in the operating budget.

This year, a jump in special education costs and an expected decrease in revenue from sending towns is challenging the board members as they keep an eye on the property tax impact.

The budget committee and board had met Dec. 19 to see how cuts of $300,000 and $500,000 would impact the schools. The committee voted on cuts, which brought the proposed figure down to $33,613,147. That figure did not gain a majority of support from board members, so the Jan. 3 special meeting was scheduled.

Defending his budget, Neal Moylan, principal at Kennett High School, said that in recent years the school has sent kids to Harvard, John Hopkins, MIT and other highly selective colleges. For the 2011-2012 school year, Conway's high school cost was $13,241, which Moylan said was the lowest per student cost in the state north of the Lakes Region.

Board member Dick Klement told the board that cuts in the high school budget are not as effective in lessening the school tax burden on Conway property owners. The district has tuition agreements with Tamworth, Freedom, Albany, Eaton, Madison, Bartlett and Jackson to educate the region's high school students.

Those towns, with the exception of Albany and Eaton, have their own elementary schools, and do not share in the cost for children in grades K-6, so spending - or not spending - in those schools has a greater impact on Conway's tax rate.

Tuition payments from area towns make up approximately 31 percent of the district's revenue, with Conway taxpayers supplying about 46 percent of the revenues for the operating appropriation.

At an earlier meeting Pam Stimpson, SAU 9 director of special services, said that the district has 29 students in out-of-district placements, with tuition of more than $700,000.

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