Merrimack school budget committee's fate in voters' hands
Residents will be presented with a petition warrant article seeking to rescind the 12-member school district budget committee and increase the number of school board members from five to seven.
“Removing the budget committee now, simply because we are in a relatively quiet time, is not prudent,” said Ortega.
“Additionally, each body’s processes have been streamlined to improve efficiency and expedite the process,” he said, noting the school board unanimously voted to not recommend the warrant article.
Krupp describes the budget committee as a waste of time and effort for school administrators and citizens. Because of contractual salaries, benefits and special education costs in the district’s budget, Krupp maintains that the committee can only adjust less than 20 percent of the overall school budget. Furthermore, when the committee does make a change to the budget, it only affects the bottomline, stressed Krupp. “I would submit that the school budget process is broken, and that this article, if passed, will fix it,” he said. The new, streamlined process mentioned by Ortega may give the school board extra time to review the proposed spending plan, but the committee members now feel rushed, according to Krupp. Tim Tenhave, former town councilor, has said that he supports dissolving the budget committee and allowing a larger school board to review and analyze the district budget."I believe it moves the district forward," said Tenhave, who noted the proposal will allow the school board to be more accountable for the budget.
"I am baffled by this warrant article," said Carol Lang, member of the committee, adding there are benefits to having a budget committee that are being overlooked.
“In the years since the town went from a five-person board of selectmen to a seven-person town council, there have been multiple elections where councilor seats have gone uncontested, while no school board seat has,” said Ortega. “What choice or diversity of thought were the voters given at the polls with a single candidate?”
Election day is Tuesday. The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at James Mastricola Upper Elementary School.