HAMPSTEAD – The School Board learned that Superintendent Earl Metzler has recommended continuing with Whitsons as both the Hampstead and Timberlane school districts’ food service provider. Metzler and Assistant Superintendent Winfried Feneberg explained that negotiations with Whitsons had been productive and that the expected loss faced by the district on the food service is not the $40,000 that was previously anticipated, but would be roughly the same as it has been each of the last several years, around $10,000 or less.
The board learned the contract with Whitsons has been renegotiated and Metzler is optimistic that over the next year that the food service can be brought in at break even or better. He said steps have been taken for better monitoring of the food service and more attention will be paid to food service employees’ suggestions and comments. However, he said there would be a 10 percent increase in the cost of reimbursable meals and a five percent hike for some voluntary items.
The board voted 4-1 to accept the contract, with board member Jason Cipriano voting against it due to concerns with the increase and the fact that the food service annually loses money. He felt the district should have a definite plan to meet the program’s costs, which should not, he said, be based on raising the cost of the meals and the items sold.
In other business, District Business Manager George Stokinger told the board that the SAU budget process will follow the usual procedure with the SAU board, but once the public hearing has established the budget bottom line, that, along with the default budget will be sent to the warrant article. He said voters will not be able to make any changes at the deliberative session and that the default budget will also not be able to be changed. He indicated that it will take a majority of voter approval from the five towns to pass the budget warrant article and he fears many people will not understand that the assigned share of the SAU budget will have been subtracted from the school budgets for both districts.
“This will have some unintended consequences,” he said. The SAU budget is made up of salaries almost exclusively so this can cause some issues with increases and raises and contracts. Also during the meeting, Tom Lindquist came before the board during Public Comment and urged the board not to rush to a decision regarding funding the proposed emergency access road to the Middle School. He said the wetlands permits and cost estimates appear to be on a “fast track”, which concerns him because other less expensive options have not been explored or considered. Furthermore, he is concerned that the school board can decide to fund this project without taxpayer input or having a voice in the decision.
This would mean lesser surplus could be returned to the taxpayers in a year when they are being faced with funding the new police station. “Please do not rush to meet a June 30th date and don’t use the surplus that will have a major impact on taxpayers’ tax bills,” he said. “Take the time to thoroughly review other options and allow the taxpayers to become more educated about the proposed project and have a voice in the decision.”