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Efforts to cut school spending fail at Keene deliberative session

KEENE — Despite attempts to cut Keene School District spending at Saturday’s deliberative session, all of the warrant articles were moved to the March annual meeting warrant without spending cuts.

“A lot of debate, a lot of conversation, but all the numbers stayed the same,” SAU 29 Business Administrator John Harper said Monday.

The proposed $63,255,581 budget represents a less than 1 percent, or $498,634, increase over last year’s $62,756,947 budget.

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.

More than 100 voters attended the six-hour deliberative session, Harper said. Most of the proposed spending cuts came from a small group of voters who are part of the Free Keene movement that, among other issues, advocates for less government spending.
A $12.8 million bond to consolidate the city’s elementary schools was amended to be more specific, Harper said.

The elementary consolidation plan would close Jonathan Daniels School and renovate and expand the city’s four remaining elementary schools. The bond article, however, did not name Jonathan Daniels as the school to be closed. The amended article says Jonathan Daniels would be repurposed by the school district, which is part of the plan, Harper said.
Repurposing could include shifting the district preschool, some offices and/or the maintenance department to Jonathan Daniels, he said.

Voters who supported the amendment said the original wording was too vague, Harper said.
“The underlying matter here is Keene has five elementary schools and students enough for four,” Harper said.

Ballot voting is set to take place March 11. The polling location for Wards 1, 2 and 3 is the Keene Recreation Center on Washington Street. Voting for Wards 4 and 5 will be at the First Baptist Church on Maple Avenue.

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