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January 13. 2014 8:07PM

Keene school board submits $63.2 million spending plan

KEENE — A long-talked about plan to consolidate the city’s elementary schools is coming before voters as a $12.8 million bond article this March.

The Board of Education is presenting the bond article as well as its proposed $63.2 million budget at a hearing at Keene High School tonight at 7.

Board members approved their proposed $63,255,581 budget on Saturday. The budget represents a less than one percent — or $498,684 increase — over last year’s $62,756,947 budget, said, SAU 29 Business Administer John Harper said Monday.

The proposed budget is estimated to increase the school portion of the budget by 3.36 percent, Harper said.

The default budget is $63,578,424.

“There also a teacher’s contract, four year collective bargaining agreement,” Harper said. “The first year to fund the teacher’s contract would be $530,470.”

The warrant article also includes the usual request of $100,000 for a building maintenance capital reserve fund.

“It’s an interesting warrant cause you have a budget, a collective bargaining agreement and a bond article, which doesn’t happen every year,” Harper said.

The elementary consolation bond article includes plans to close Jonathan M. Daniels School and renovate and expand the city’s four remaining elementary schools.

The consolation has been extensively studied by a committee and discussed at hearings, but this would be the first time voters would have a chance to have their views known, Harper said.

If the proposed 20-year bond passes, it would require a $332,494 payment in the first year.

Board members, who plan to present their findings on the school consolidation tonight, say consolidating the elementary schools would have an immediate financial impact on the district, Harper said.

“They’ve said all along there would be savings immediate savings over and above the bond payments,” Harper said.

Voters will have the final say, though, he said. “It’s always difficult for the people in the community that has the school that’s closing. It’s never a popular thing.”The deliberative session is planned for Feb. 8 and the ballot vote is set for March 11.

mpierce@newstote.com


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