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February 17. 2014 8:16PM

Middleton residents weigh impact of school

WOLFEBORO — While Middleton residents were impressed by the schools of Gov. Wentworth, some people still have questions about whether they can afford to build their own school in town.

About 60 residents and officials from Middleton took part in Saturday’s tour of the Kingswood Complex, which includes the Kingswood Region High School, the junior high school and the arts center.

On March 11, Middleton residents will decide whether to withdraw from Farmington schools, accept a tuition agreement with Gov. Wentworth Regional School and take out a $6,592,500 bond to build a new school.

After Saturday’s tour, Middleton School Board member Ken Garry, who’s helped spearhead the withdrawal process, said it’s important to focus on the “positive.” He referred questions about the potential cost and estimated tax impact of the $6.6 million bond to build a new school to School Administrative Unit 61, which oversees students from Farmington and Middleton.

Superintendent Steve Welford could not be reached for comment about the potential tax impact Monday.

During Middleton’s School District’s Deliberative Session on Feb. 8, Garry estimated that the tax impact of the $210,000 interest payment is $1.30 per $1,000 of valuated property.

About 85 residents attended the session in Middleton.

The bond in Article 2 – which requires a 60 percent majority to pass – would also allocate $210,000 for the interest of the first year’s bond payment to build a new school for students in kindergarten through grade 6 along King’s Highway. It will only go into effect if the articles regarding withdrawing and the tuition agreement also are approved.

While the school board planned to discuss the potential tax impact of constructing and operating the school, which would be located on district-owned property, officials did not release an estimate at the Jan. 18 bond hearing, in a recent newsletter to residents or at meetings.

Garry said the school board plans to meet Wednesday to discuss the contents of the second mailing to residents. He would not say if it would include information about the estimated tax impact and referred inquiries to School Board Chair Andrea Bowden.

Although officials previously said they intend to present detailed information during the deliberative session about the financial impact of withdrawing and building a new 27,500 square-foot school, members of the School Board could not be reached for comment about the matter both in person and via e-mail.

The Middleton School Board is scheduled to meet Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. in the Middleton Town Offices.

Stacy Trites, of Wolfeboro, who chairs the Gov. Wentworth Regional School Board, welcomed Middleton residents to the facility, which recently underwent major renovations. She added they are very proud of the results.

“It’s our hope, Middleton that you grow your own school,” Kelly Colby, principal of the Effingham Elementary School told Middleton residents Saturday, adding the community will reap the benefits of a small-town school.

Colby said the school – which educates students through grade 6 — enjoys the support of local parents and residents, hosts meetings and helps tie the community together.

While Brookfield students attend Wolfeboro schools, the other five communities in Gov. Wentworth – including Effingham, New Durham, Ossipee, Tuftonboro and Wolfeboro – are educated locally before joining each other at Kingswood Regional Middle School.

In March, residents of Middleton and Gov. Wentworth must both separately approve the tuition agreement, which would allow local students in grades 7-12 to attend schools in Wolfeboro between July 1, 2015, and June 30, 2025. The contract can be cancelled or extended in 2023.

If Middleton residents approve Article 6, the district could withdraw from the Authorized Regional Enrollment Area (AREA) agreement, which was enacted in 1972. If approved, Middleton students in grades 7-12 would no longer be educated in Farmington after July of 2015. Students in kindergarten through grade 6 would leave the following year.

For more information, go to sau61.org.


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