CHESTER – For those residents interested in attending next week’s school district meeting, here’s a reminder that the day of the week and venue have changed from years past.
This year’s meeting will take place Monday, March 10, at 7 p.m. at the Chester Academy cafetorium. Moving the day and place were decisions made by the school board earlier this year with an eye to avoiding scheduling conflicts with other school activities and because use of the school’s building was more efficient for organizing and set up.
The district meeting is where all decisions are made on the budget and all other articles on the warrant for the coming year. Voters can ask questions and propose changes to the articles. In 2012, Chester voters decided to do away with the SB (Senate Bill) 2 form of government that includes a deliberative session and then a secret ballot vote on separate days, to instead get everything done in one session.
But typically interest and turnout are low for the school district meeting. Last year, out of more than 3,000 registered voters, 57 showed up for a half hour meeting. This year, with no articles on the warrant yet causing any large stir among townspeople, and with just three attendees at the budget hearing, things look to be shaping up much as they have in the past. The budget process has gone smoothly and quickly, with both the budget committee and school board agreeing on the numbers to go to voters.
The budget going to the district meeting totals $11,907,747. It’s a figure that shows increased spending of $273,983 over the current year’s figure, or a 2.36 percent increase.
According to the district, the estimated tax impact is $.586 per thousand dollars of assessed property value, or $205.10 per year on a home valued at $350,000.
Most of the increase over the current year’s numbers is the result of contracted services. The cost of Pinkerton Academy tuition, where Chester sends its high school students, first increased by 5 percent, or $181,097, and special education tuition/services at the high school increased by 18.3 percent or $69,879. Transportation costs show an increase of 7.36 percent or $26,161.
Those three items represent an upward pressure of $277,115.
Also on the warrant is a Collective Bargaining Agreement with the Chester Educational Support Association. The first year of the estimated increase in that contract totals $13,778, the next year $11,988 and the third and final year $12,137. This represents in part a 4 percent salary increase in the first year and 3 percent in the second and third.
The projected tax impact of this article is estimated at $.029, per thousand dollars of property value, or $10.15 a year on a $350,000 home.
The only other article, aside from the election of officers, the general acceptance of reports and one to transact any extra business at the meeting, is another appearance of a desire by the district to use $25,000 of surplus to add to the School Buildings Maintenance Fund, in anticipation of a costly roof replacement in the next couple of years.
Election of officers will take place concurrently with the town’s secret ballot vote in May.