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Surprise, confusion and $1m cut at Allenstown school session

Special to Sunday News

February 01. 2014 9:03PM

ALLENSTOWN - Almost $1 million dollars was unexpectedly cut from the proposed Allenstown school budget when a surprise amendment was passed Saturday at the school district deliberative session.

Larry Anderson, a member of the Allenstown Budget Committee, proposed an amendment that would change the proposed school district operating budget from $9,756,468 to $8,780,000.

The proposed budget in Article 1 had been recommended for approval by both the school board and the budget committee. The proposed amount and the default budget amount were identical.

So, it was a surprise to everyone, including other members of the budget committee, when Anderson called for the amendment.

But fellow Budget Committee member Roger Lafleur insisted Anderson had the right as a taxpayer to make the amendment and have people vote on it.

Anderson said he never made his thoughts known to Andrea Martel, the committee's representative on the school board.

It wasn't until he took a copy of the proposed budget home that Anderson began to see items he felt should be cut, he said.

"There's a dozen cuts I have on paper," said Anderson. "I just forgot to bring them. I didn't think I'd be asked the question." But several people did ask Anderson what cuts he had in mind.

Members of the school board, along with resident Melaine Boisvert and Donna Ong, a teacher at Armand R. Dupont School, asked Anderson for specifics. He did not offer any, but insisted he had them at home.

Confusion enveloped much of the meeting, starting when Anderson insisted on making the amendment after moderator Dennis Fowler had already moved onto the next article on the agenda.

Anderson insisted he had raised his hand to be recognized prior to discussion of Article 1 was complete.

Fowler took a vote among those present to reopen discussion. Anderson then asked for the budget to be amended to $8,780,000.

The request took Allenstown School Board Chairman Tom Irzyk by surprise since, according to Irzyk, Anderson attended meetings where the budget was discussed and never brought up cuts.

Anderson disagreed, saying he missed the school board meetings where the budget was discussed.

Ong stood and gave an impassioned plea to not make such a drastic cut blindly.

"I'm appealing to you to rethink this," said Ong. "You are making a decision to cut a million dollars and you don't even know what is being cut."

A vote by a show of cards was taken. The amendment passed by one vote 29 to 28.

Fowler called for a revote by secret ballot because of the narrow margin, over the objection of Lafleur.

The amendment passed again, this time by two votes, 35 to 33. Voters will vote on the school budget, among other items, on Tuesday March 11.

Budget Committee Member David Coolidge said the committee had questions about the school budget, but they approved a number by a 4 to 3 vote equal to the default budget amount.

Irzyk said the budget committee had ample opportunity to voice any objections to the proposed budget long before Saturday's meeting.

"So, in this way they can make a blanket blind cut, walk out the door and drop it in the school board's lap." said Irzyk.

"So now we're the ones who have to clean up their mess."

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