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Funding for cameras at Souhegan High nixed

Union Leader Correspondent

February 06. 2018 11:31PM

AMHERST — A request to add funding to the school district’s proposed budget to install security cameras at Souhegan High School was narrowly rejected by voters on Monday.

David Chen, school board member, requested during the Souhegan Cooperative School District deliberative session that $150,000 be added to the proposed fiscal year 2019 budget of nearly $17.8 million.

There have been more than 10 school shootings in the last month throughout the country, Chen told parents and colleagues.

“That is a discomforting thought,” he said, adding money should be made available in the budget if school officials decide that interior cameras are a wise investment.

His proposal was met with both support and opposition.

“It is often stated that cameras give you a false sense of security,” said Ellen Grugen of Amherst. She insisted that the best security is trained staff members.

Lynn Briggs of Amherst disagreed, saying she will not give up on the proposal to bring cameras into the high school.

Safe Havens International was previously hired by the school board to study safety issues, and its recommendations are expected in the coming months.

While cameras may be important, Adam Steel, superintendent-elect, said several security measures will be explored to enhance safety at the high school. He stressed that security is a top priority for school administrators.

According to Steel, a portion of the district’s surplus from the existing budget — anticipated to be about $400,000 — could potentially be used to make security improvements.

The request to add $150,000 to the budget for the purpose of cameras was rejected with a vote of 18-21.

Howard Brown, chairman of the Souhegan Cooperative School Board, said there were many variables contributing to the district’s proposed $17,795,801 budget. He asked voters to trust school officials with the recommended spending plan, reminding them that a new strategic plan is expected to be in place this summer to help guide the district forward.

The budget includes the removal of three staff positions — a learning specialist who is set to retire, a social studies teacher also planning on retiring and one paraprofessional.

The proposed budget is $218,851 less than the existing spending plan.

If the budget is approved at the polls, the school portion of the tax rate will increase by 26 cents per $1,000 of assessed value for Amherst residents and 23 cents per $1,000 of assessed value for Mont Vernon residents. The budget is being recommended 5-2 by the school board and unanimously by the district’s advisory finance committee.

According to school officials, enrollment at the high school is currently about 800 students. Projected enrollment for the upcoming school year is expected to decrease to about 740 students.

“This current year our enrollment went down 5.1 percent, but our cost-per-pupil went up about 10 percent,” said Dwayne Purvis, school board member, adding enrollment is again expected to decline about 6.1 percent, yet the cost per student will increase nearly 2.5 percent.

Education Amherst

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