School budget OK'd in Hollis

HOLLIS – Voters at Wednesday night’s annual School District Meeting approved an operating budget and warrant articles that were slightly less than the current year’s spending.

The School Board and Budget Committee had planned to ask voters to approve an $11.07 million operating budget, but after Budget Committee Chairman Chris Hyde suggested that due to a sharp drop in the cost of heating oil, the school district could safely cut another $24,000, voters approved an amended budget of $11.05 million with little discussion.

About 60 voters turned out for the meeting at the Hollis/Brookline Middle School.

The biggest debate came over an article asking voters to approve $157,137 to pay for the second year of a two-year contract for professional staff.

Some residents said teachers shouldn’t receive a salary increase because of the global economic crisis, which has forced companies to cut salaries and lay off employees, including some Hollis residents.

“Ask the union members for a freeze. Defeat the article,” said resident Sherry Vanoss.

Others warned that breaking a contract made in good faith could be costly and would certainly be dishonorable.

“Words count,” said Dr. James Squires, a retired surgeon and longtime town moderator, noting that the School District and the teachers union made the agreement in good faith after spending thousand of dollars and thousands of hours in negotiations.

After the public comments, the article – which required a two-thirds vote – passed easily.

Oddly, voters had little, if anything, to say before approving a support staff contract increase totaling $40,230, also for the second year of a two-year agreement.

And it was smooth sailing after that, with voters passing the remaining warrant articles – several housekeeping items and $83,266 for two maintenance expendable trusts – in quick succession.

The total spending package was about $45,000 less than last year’s spending.