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Raymond residents question proposal to keep excess taxes

RAYMOND - Residents in attendance at Monday night's school deliberative session had no questions about the proposed operating budget of over $21 million, nor questions about a four-year collective bargaining agreement with the district support staff.

Only one question was raised about the $195,000 proposed capital improvement plan.

Residents did, however, have plenty of questions about warrant article six, which would allow the school district to retain a surplus at the end of each year to use in case of emergency or to help offset the tax rate should revenues come in lower than anticipated.

The article comes forward this year because of a change to state law last year that allows school districts to hold onto the surplus funds, if approved by voters.

School board member John Harmon said it is very similar to what the town already does, but with more restrictions on how the surplus could be used.

Under the new state law, school districts can retain up to 2.5 percent of the net property tax assessment in any given year. The maximum retention is not cumulative and is recalculated each year.

The funds could only be used as a revenue source for emergency expenditures if approved by the school board and the state commissioner of education, and, in some cases, the town budget committee.

Harmon said passage of the article would help alleviate cash flow concerns, could reduce future bond borrowing interest rates and could reduce the impact of unanticipated revenue shortfalls.

Some residents said they do not like the idea, and would like to see any surplus funds returned to the town at the end of the year, which has been the standard practice.

"I'm concerned. This money otherwise would go back to reduce taxes and in economic times like we have right now, we have to save every dollar we can," resident Kathleen Hoelzel said.

Budget Committee member Colleen West-Coates had the board clarify that unanticipated revenue would still come back to taxpayers.

Despite the concerns, the article was moved to the ballot without any changes.

Residents will weigh in on all six warrant articles on the ballot and will choose three school board members on voting day. The polls will be open at Iber Holmes Gove Middle School on March 12 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.


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