HAMPSTEAD – Fewer than 60 residents attended the Hampstead School District Deliberative Session, and two amendments were proposed to two articles, although both amendments were aimed at the same issue – funding building infrastructure repairs and maintenance. All other articles generated only brief discussion and went to the ballot unchanged.
At the Tuesday night, Feb. 3 session, Article 2, a bond request for a single story Central School renovation and construction project, generated minor discussion.
The article calls for a 10-year bond in the amount of $4,189,717. The article is recommended unanimously by the School Board but is unanimously not recommended by the Budget Committee.
The first payment on the bond at a 3.497 percent interest rate would be $84,725 and would be raised by approval of the article, which requires a three-fifths majority to pass.
The total interest cost of the bond’s 10-year life is $816,570.44, making the total cost of the project $5,006,287.44.
School Board Chairman Greg Hoppa reminded voters that a renovation and construction project presented to voters last year - which failed – was much larger and cost $6,180,520, $1,990,803 more than this year’s project. It also included work on Hampstead Middle School; this year’s bond is for Central School only.
Chris Huston, president of architects for BreadLoaf, the company handling the project, provided the details of the proposed construction and renovation. The article was moved to the ballot unchanged.
Article 3, the operating budget of $24,393,892 and default budget of $24,277,210, was recommended by the School Board and the Budget Committee unanimously.
At the conclusion of the budget explanation, resident Jorge Mesa-Tejada offered an amendment to add $250,000 to the proposed operating budget and raise the bottom line to $24,643,892. The amendment was seconded by John Skidmore.
Mesa-Tejada said the purpose of the amendment was to provide sufficient funds for Facilities Director Michael Hall to address what he said were badly needed building infrastructure repairs. The amount would provide sufficient funds for Hall to repair the Central School roof.
Hoppa expressed concern that increasing the budget bottom line would cause voters to choose the default budget, and thus even less would get accomplished. School administrators noted that under the default budget they would have to look at staffing changes to operate the district.
Resident Bruce Randall suggested that a better way to address funding facilities needs would be by amending Article 5, the Capital Reserve Fund article. Randall brought that amendment forward.
Moderator Neil Reardon asked for a voice vote on the Mesa-Tejada amendment to the budget, which was soundly defeated, and Article 3 was moved to the ballot as written.
Article 5, the Capital Reserve Fund, originally asked voters to approve the School District’s putting $75,000 from surplus into the district’s School Renovation, Reconstruction and Capital Improvement Capital Reserve Fund after the first $150,000 of surplus is returned to the taxpayers. This article had been recommended unanimously by the School Board and the Budget Committee.
Randall’s amendment called for $250,000 to be placed into the Capital Reserve Fund after the first $75,000 of surplus has been returned to the taxpayers.
Reardon put the amendment to a voice vote that proved unclear, and he then asked for a hand vote. The count of hands showed 43 supporting the amendment with 8 opposed; the amendment passed.
A question was raised regarding the legality of changing the article, as it had been established in 2006 by the vote of taxpayers. The response was that the present meeting had the right to amend the article, and it was moved as amended to the ballot.
At a meeting immediately following the Deliberative Session, the School Board voted unanimously to approve Article 5 as amended (see story page 6).
A few questions were directed to Article 4, which provides for an emergency access road to the middle school. Resident Kim Lindquist thanked the School Board for listening to residents’ suggestions to explore the access as presently planned – crossing St. Anne’s Church property – and for putting the decision before the voters. She expressed frustration with the Budget Committee for its 1-3 vote not to recommend the article, and thanked the School Board for its unanimous vote to recommend the article, which she described as fiscally responsible and the right choice.
Article 4 was moved to the ballot as written.