Souhegan voters let warrant go unchanged

AMHERST – Voters asked questions but left the warrant alone at the Souhegan School District’s Deliberative Session on Tuesday.

At the meeting, about 30 registered voters were given a presentation of the proposed operating budget and other warrant articles and given the opportunity to change the wording of those articles.

The warrant agreed upon at Deliberative Session will now be voted on the March 10 general election.

The proposed operating budget for the school district is $17.73 million, which is 2.09 percent, or $362,000, higher than the current budget.

Several residents wondered why the budget was going up when the district plans to lay off about eight people.

>>Town Meeting ‘09<< School Board Chairman Steve Coughlan explained that the increase is attributable to an increase in out-of-district special education costs, along with compensation increases for staff. "Everything we could control we cut, and we cut heavily," said Coughlan. The cost associated with out-of-district special education is up about $277,000. Federal law dictates when a student is too disabled to attend public school, the district has to pay to send the child to a facility that provides an appropriate education until the child graduates or turns 21. Of the 164 special education students, 13 will be sent out of district next year. If approved, the proposed budget will decrease the Souhegan school portion of the tax rate for an Amherst resident by 1 cent, to $6.33 per $1,000 of assessed property valuation. That means the owners of a $400,000 home in Amherst would pay $4 less in property taxes. In Mont Vernon, the Souhegan school portion of the tax rate is estimated to increase 33 cents, to $7.44. That means the owner of a $300,000 home would pay $99 more next year. The variation in the tax impact between Amherst and Mont Vernon is based on how much state adequacy aid the towns receive. The default budget, which would go into effect by law if the operating budget is rejected by voters, is $17,730,722.