Pelham - Windham News | April 13, 2012 - 5 More Letters to our Editor continued from page 4
Estimated Tax Impact May Become Part of a Warrant Article
Many New Hampshire residents have long wanted to see an estimated tax impact statement included with warrant articles. However, governing bodies, i.e., towns and school districts, have not had the authority to include such a statement within a warrant article. Tat will change on May 21, 2012. Both the House and the Senate have passed HB 1170 and the Governor has signed this bill into law. Tis bill allows voters to vote on a warrant article that would allow an estimated tax impact included on future warrant articles. If voters approve the inclusion of such a statement, warrant articles will be able to contain that information.
Te bill states, “Any town may vote to require that the annual budget
and all special warrant articles having a tax impact, as determined by the governing body, shall contain a notation stating the estimated tax impact of the article. Te determination of the estimated tax impact shall be subject to approval by the governing body.”
Lynne and Russ Ober, State Representatives, Hudson A ‘Daffodil Days’ Tank You
On Saturday, March 24, with so much support, from so many people, the
Windham Garden Club was able to raise $2,037.54! Te Windham Garden Club would like to thank the residents of Windham and any visitors passing through who stopped by our tables to make a donation to the American Cancer Society’s Fundraiser “Daffodil Days.”
All proceeds were sent to the American Cancer Society NH headquarters
in Bedford. Your donations allow the American Cancer Society to save lives and create a world with more birthdays by helping people stay well and get well, by finding cures, and by fighting back against cancer. Te Garden Club would like to thank Delahunty Nurseries for providing a cool place for the Daffodils to rest until the day of sale. Special thanks also go out to Howie Glynn & Son’s convenience stores, the Village Bean Fine Coffees and the staff on the Windham Transfer and Recycling Station for allowing us space to have the daffodils available to all. Well done Windham! It is so nice to see a community coming together for a good cause.
Joanne Ago, Daffodil Days Chairperson, Windham Garden Club, Windham
Preschool Move - continued from front page
program since that time. According to the agreement between the town and the school district, ownership could revert to the town once again for a $1 payment and a year’s notice, should the school district no longer have any use for the structure. LaBranche said that he recently toured the existing pre-school building and was not pleased with what he found. “It has more than just several short-comings,” he said, mentioning the need for new roofing and new siding on the backside of the building. There is significant water damage to this area, as well as a pest control issue that has been difficult to resolve, mainly squirrels in the attic. “There is not enough money in the budget to improve the building as needed,” LaBranche said, noting the $15,000 set aside for this purpose in next year’s operating budget. “I’m not recommending that any more students go into that building without major renovations,” LaBranche emphasized. The major renovations LaBranche was referring to would amount to about $100,000. In a perfect world, the pre-school
program would be integrated with regular education students at Golden Brook School, LaBranche said. “But that can’t happen. Golden Brook is filled to the brim,” he said.
Special Education Director Tina McCoy explained that federal mandates require that special needs students be educated from ages three and up. Those mandates have been in effect since 1975, she said. As for the structure where these children are being educated, “It is not comparable to other school district facilities,” she said. The preschool generally includes about 20 children, as well as nine professional staff members. The staff members make “a stellar team,” McCoy commented, despite the shortcomings of the facility. McCoy told school board members that she thinks moving the pre-school to the high school is “a good option,” especially considering the amount of money that would have to be put into renovations
to the building on Route 111. “It would give us more space than we have now,” McCoy said of the relocation plan, which would involve a conversion of bathrooms for use by younger students, as well as some changes to the access. “There would be some modifications of the building required,” she said. The estimated cost of those modifications would run about $25,000, McCoy estimated, some of which might come from federal funding. Having the preschool program at the
high school could also have the benefit of allowing the older students to interact with their youngest counterparts through new programming, McCoy said. The preschoolers will not be using any of the core facilities at the high school, and will spend all of their time in the two lower- level instructional spaces being designated for that purpose. Preschool students will also be transported separately to and from the high school. Dr. LaBranche said that the current high
school administration is 100 percent in agreement with using a section of the high school to house the preschool. In response to a question regarding
where the money to compete the renovations at the high school would come from, SAU 28 Business Director Adam Steel said that the $15,000 slated for work on the existing preschool building could be used at the high school, plus there would be efficiency savings in utility and maintenance costs, if the preschool building is no longer used for educational purposes. Money in the Special Education budget for next year could also be moved around to accommodate this expense, Steel said. School board member Stephanie
Wimmer said she recently toured the preschool building, as well. “I am disappointed in the building,” she said. “I am not happy that we have kids there.” Wimmer also said she likes the idea of being able to enhance the high school curriculum by having the preschoolers in the same facility. “We could possibly use
Facilities Study - continued from front page
people in a facility study. She stated that having an expert involved in the process was worth the money. Deb Ryan and Brian Carton also favored involving more stakeholders in the process. However, not all of the school board members were in favor of hiring the outside experts. Andy Ducharme asked whether the group would be able to produce results that were not already known.
Lecaroz responded that at present, the board does not have updated goals or an action plan to achieve those goals. She also pointed out that the Board needs to resolve housing for the SAU, the preschool and the overcrowding issues. Rob Hardy expressed his view that people in
Pelham are already aware of the issues with PHS and the Memorial School. “In my opinion, we know how many students, classrooms, buildings, teachers, aids, trailers and acres we have in stock. And we also know what we need to accomplish via the end of Kindergarten funding and the SAU 28 split,” Hardy stated. “I doubt there is a district in New Hampshire that has been studied more than ours.” Hardy says he will support the board’s vote, but he does intend to ask whether this is money will spent, or if the same information could be obtained in a different manner. For example, the Board of Selectmen, School Board and Budget Committee are scheduled for a roundtable discussion on April 12. Residents also questioned whether it might be
worth opting for the more comprehensive study instead.
“Not sure what we can learn here that we don’t
already know,” said Mike Conrad, former school board member. “Asking the voters is great, but without a solid dollar figure you probably will not get the response you are looking for or any indication what would pass.” Tom Geller also preferred the full strategic plan. “The cheaper option will just inform the Pelham
School District whether they’re making best use of the current facilities. If they come back with recommendations for improvements, but the improvements don’t provide for the numbers currently enrolled or expected in the future, we’re going to need full strategic planning as well.” Board Chair Brian Carton understands that the
full strategic plan may be necessary. “We have plenty of tasks to execute in the immediate future, plenty of things to keep us busy. I think we can take a few extra months for careful planning,” she stated. “I do see value in the Best Education Use study, but I’m also willing to consider the Full Strategic Plan. Personally, I’m very interested in the community engagement part of the process.” Hardy is correct when he states that Pelham has been studying the needs of the school district for some time.
In the late 1990s and 2000s, school officials realized that space was a definite concern. The town was growing and facilities were outdated. Despite the construction of a new elementary school, issues of overcrowding remained at the Memorial School and the high school. Study groups were formed, such as the TEACH committee, to consider the needs of the school district and make recommendations. A proposed coop with Windham failed, and Pelham needed to seek a different solution to meet the needs of the community. Since then, there have been suggestions regarding potential additions or new school on a new site. There have been engineering studies and other reviews of the school district by at least two architectural firms. In May 2009, a facilities committee appointed
by the School Board wrapped up a yearlong study and recommended a new high school on a separate piece of land. The bond proposal to purchase land and construct a new high school was put on the ballot in March 2010, but failed to gain the full 60 percent needed to pass.
the current location as storage space,” she added. Steel said that the cost of operating the existing pre-school building on Route 111 presently runs about $50,000 annually. “It would be expensive, even if we just use it for storage,” he added. School Board Vice-Chairman Michelle
Farrell said she is in total agreement with moving the pre-school program to Windham High. Chairman Bruce Anderson said, “It seems that this is what we have to do now,” referring to the space crisis that exists in the school district, a problem not likely to be resolved in the next few years. Anderson also said he feels school administrators should “mothball” the building on Route 111, just in case it is needed a couple of years down the road. “I hate to give up any space, at this point,” Anderson said. Newly elected school board member
Jerome Rekart also said he doesn’t want to get rid of the preschool building. School board member Michael Joanis, also recently elected, said, “We don’t have much choice at this point” as to where to put the preschool program. Joanis said he doesn’t feel that the existing location has been properly maintained over the past 13 years or so. Still, Joanis said, he would hate to see the school district give up the building to town ownership. Former school board chairman Barbara Coish, who still regularly attends every meeting, said, “I really do hope that we hang on to the building.”
As for the timeline for the relocation, plans are to begin renovations at the high school immediately upon the end of the current school year. It is anticipated that sufficient changes can be made in time for the pre-school extended year program to begin, as scheduled, by mid-July. The remaining changes could be done over the summer months, McCoy said, so that everything is set to go before classes begin in September.
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