Hampstead School Board Discusses Budget Process

HAMPSTEAD – School Administrative Unit (SAU) 55 Assistant Superintendent Roxanne Wilson said she is working with the Hampstead School Board to make this year’s budget preparation process more efficient.
SAU cover the Hampstead and Timberlane school districts.

At the board’s Tuesday, Sept. 24 meeting, she accepted suggestions from board member Jim Stewart that the board could reach a consensus on a bottom line for the budget. That bottom line would then provide administrators and the various departments that develop the budget with a framework of the board’s expectations and a picture of how small a percentage of the budget can be tweaked.
Wilson suggested that board members work directly with their liaison department heads to get details of what the departments’ needs and requirements are, and then take that information back to the board and to her so she could begin developing a final budget draft. The draft will go to the board Oct. 29 or possibly on Oct. 24.
She suggested the department presentations be limited to 10 minutes and should discuss the drivers and changes that impact on the department budget. She said she will handle enrollment and personnel, contract and benefit data, and the removal of one-time items. She noted that if there are additional questions, there would still be time to get answers before Nov. 9.
Stewart reiterated that it is important to recognize and make the public understand that there is only a small piece of the budget the school board can control, amounting to about 15 to 20 percent of the total budget. He wants to focus on those components the board does control.
Board member Greg Hoppa cautioned that the board needs to remember that final figures for such things as health insurance, tuition rates and revenue won’t be available until after Nov. 9, so changes to the budget will continue. This needs to be emphasized to the public, he said.
The board discussed identifying questions that always arise from the public and figuring out how best to address them, as it seeks to be more proactive in how it presents the budget this year, showing the public what it can control.
Member Jaye Dimando said the board’s role is to watch how it spends taxpayers’ money.
In other business:
• Wilson told the board she is considering working with the state on a Blizzard Bag plan for snow days. She said when a plan is in place that the state approves, she will present it to the board.
• Wilson said the work the administration has done regarding the mosquito risk has not been easy but she is comfortable that what occurred was best for the students and the schools. She said Hampstead Health Officer Kris Emerson had notified her that the fields were to be sprayed again Thursday, Sept. 26. As previously reported in the Tri-Town Times, outdoor recess and after school activities and field trips were stopped the previous week, and were resumed Tuesday, Sept. 24, with the stipulation that with parental permission, students could go outside for recess or after school activities with the application of designated mosquito repellant, or a release from the parents that no repellant would be required. Parents could also state their intention that students not go outside.
• Wilson said Pinkerton Academy, which Hampstead high school students attend on a tuition basis, has been providing information on how Hampstead students are doing but she has to find out where that information has gone. She will bring it to the board when it is found.
• Hoppa asked that she continue to work with Pinkerton, urging the Derry semi-private high school to allow the sending towns to have representation on the search process for a new headmaster.

Lease Nixed for Sandown Train Depot Museum
Matt Rittenhouse
SANDOWN – Instead of setting up a lease style agreement between the historical society and the town for the society’s use of the Train Depot as its museum, the selectmen have opted instead to send a letter outlining the two group’s responsibilities.
While the board reviewed a draft lease at its previous meeting, some members said the idea of a lease was too formal and heavy handed. Selectmen’s office assistant Paula Gulla has been spearheading the town’s work with the depot, and at the board’s Sept. 30 meeting, presented a draft letter instead.
The letter outlines the town’s responsibilities and requirements for the building, and after review, the board unanimously said it was the right move for the time being.
Gulla also noted that in her investigations, she found a 1982 warrant article that established that the historical society could use the town-owned building for its museum. That article stipulated that the society would handle all operating expenses and renovations, but since then those responsibilities have fallen back on the town.
Gulla explained that the selectmen could establish a formal agreement between the two groups for a maximum of a year; anything longer would need governing body approval at Town Meeting.
The letter presented Monday states that the town handles insurance for the structure and any town-owned items within, and also notes the board of selectmen must approve any changes to the structure and any damage to the building should be relayed to the board.
The letter also reminds the society that the depot is listed on both the national and state historic registers. It was this fact that led some selectmen to bring up the need to define a clear relationship and responsibilities for the building’s use.
Some changes proposed by the president of the society, Bruce Robinson, could have put the building in jeopardy of losing its standing on the registers, and selectmen want to make sure all changes were properly vetted.
At last Town Meeting, a warrant article failed to set aside funds for the insulation of the building’s attic, another move that could have jeopardized its status.
Selectman Hans Nicolaisen noted that the agreement was exactly what he was looking for after his review of the too formal lease draft.
During the discussion, the board also indicated it would look to close the building to the public on Oct. 15 each year and to open again on April 15, but noted that the society may come to the board with amendments to those dates for consideration.
The letter also left room for the society to add its own concerns. The board is not looking to finalize the document until it is discussed with the society’s membership.
Gulla also informed the board that she’s moving forward with getting two contractors to give no-cost estimates for a full review of the building and a plan for what needed to be done in the way of improvements or renovations, all with an eye to historic preservation. The estimates are part of a grant process Gulla is going through in search of funding for the work.
In other business Monday night:
• The board approved budget proposals under the direction of public works director Artie Genualdo. With a few questions by selectman Brenda Copp, the budgets were quickly reviewed and approved.
Copp’s questions centered around the amount of funds spent out of specific lines so far this year and noted low percentages, but Genualdo explained that some of the lines were hoarded this year because of an expensive start of the year from winter maintenance and others were unused because the town had been fortunate in regard to potentially expensive equipment failure. Another overexpended line would be pulled back once highway block grant money was applied to the budget.
Copp noted that Genualdo had good answers to her questions.
The Highway Facilities account was approved at a gross expenditure of $10,056 with no revenue. The highway operating account was approved at a gross expense of $520,615 with no revenue. The sanitation facility account was approved at a gross of $8,464 with no revenue. The sanitation site account was approved at a gross of $2,000 with no revenue. The recycling account was approved at a gross of $49,250 and a revenue of $17,500.

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