ALLENSTOWN — About two dozen residents — most of them parents — attended the Allenstown School Board meeting on Wednesday night to learn what $1 million in cuts would mean to the schools should an amended budget be supported by voters on March 11.
The proposed school budget was amended from $9,756,468 to $8,780,000 after a 35-33 vote at the Allenstown School District deliberative session on Feb. 1.
On Wednesday night, the school board distributed a flyer with the heading: “What Do You Get for a Million Dollars?” The list of potential cuts includes about 14 education positions; a school resource officer; library and technology specialists; money for field trips and school assemblies; supplies and books for both Allenstown schools; art, music, physical education and foreign language programs; and the district’s sports teams, among other cuts.
“If you look at this sheet, many of these pieces are items that we are mandated by the department of education,” said Allenstown School Board Chairman Thomas Irzyk. “What people don’t realize is if all this goes through, and our property value decreases, our taxes could actually go up. This will really affect that.”
The amended budget represents a decrease of $4.05 per $1,000, or $1,012.50 on a $250,000 home.
“Unfortunately, most of the people who are supporting these cuts don’t have children in the school system, but even if I weren’t a parent, I would still have a very difficult time supporting this,” Allenstown parent Jody Moore told the Union Leader. “I mean, these are elementary and middle school students we’re talking about, and we’re talking about cutting resources that are fundamental to our children’s education. We’d be putting them at a huge disadvantage. These are the years that we are setting them up for future success.”
Dawn Labreque, while wearing several hats, echoed Moore’s sentiment.
“I’m a lifelong resident of Allenstown, I raised my children here. I went to school here. My four grandchildren go to school here, and I also work here,” she said. “I’m very concerned about the future of our town and the future of our children. They need to be educated, and they need to be educated properly and they the benefits of art, music and gym. Not all students are going to be academic successes, but they may be able to find their outlet in other areas, which is very important to create a well-rounded student.”
Much of the discussion centered around how to encourage voters to reject the amended budget in favor of the default budget, the same amount both the school board and budget committee originally supported.
“The parents need to hit the pavement and talk to their neighbors, talk to each other, use Facebook and Twitter, whatever their medium is to get the word out, we need to do that,” said Labrecque. “We need to pass signs, we need to just let people know that this is very important and they need to get out and vote.”
State Sen. John Reagan, who was in attendance, encouraged residents to send out informational pamphlets in the mail and to write letters to the editor to all local newspapers.
All who spoke, however, agreed. Their top priority is finding a way to get voters to vote “no” on the amended budget on March 11.
“If we win the vote, this is all water under the bridge,” said resident Brian Godin “If we don’t, we’ll have to go with plan B, which is a lot of cuts, a lot of lost jobs ... we’ll set ourselves back 15 years.”