HAMPSTEAD — Two major changes were made at the school deliberative session last night. Voters added money to the school renovation project and cut the school’s operating budget.
In a move that School Board Chairman Natalie Gallo referred to as “startling,” the district received notice just prior to the session from the state that the town would be required to pay nearly $45,000 in additional interest in the first year of a 10-year bond payment on renovations to Hampstead Central and Middle School.
Including interest, the district would have to pay $178,846 in the first year of the project. The total cost, including interest, is now projected to be $7.5 million.
“I’m very sorry to have to inform everyone of this tonight,” Gallo said.
The district is proposing 15,500 square feet of new space and 10,500 square feet of renovated space. The work would replace six portable classrooms and would allow the school’s kindergarten rooms to meet state standards.
“These classrooms are at the end of their life,” School Board member Gregory Hoppa said.
Resident Jorge Mesa-Tejada made a presentation against the proposal.
“We are not bound by the standards, we are grandfathered,” he said. “The state cannot force the town to conform to it unless they pay for it and I don’t think that’s going to happen anytime soon.”
Resident Joseph Tabbi also spoke against the plan.
“I know it’s over 10 years, but the money has to come from some place,” he said. “It’s coming from our pocket.”
Voters reducted the budget by $59,789. The reduction is due to a decrease in Hampstead’s share of Pinkerton Academy tuition. The change was made because Pinkerton recently approved 40 students from Hooksett.
“When the enrollment changes, that calculation is redone and because more students were added, the cost per pupil decreases,” School Board member Jason Cipriano said. “The net result for Hampstead ends up being a reduction.”
Mesa-Tejada applauded the School Board for the move.
“I want to thank the School Board for deciding to save that money and not restoring it elsewhere in the budget,” he said. “Every penny you can save is important this year, since we are paying for a new police station.”
After the reduction, the voters sent a $23,803,623 budget to the warrant. The default budget is higher, $23,853,314.
Resident Judy Graham spoke to her citizen petition warrant article which would put the school administrative unit budget back in the district operating budget. It was removed from the budget by the voters last year.
Voters will get the chance to vote on all warrant articles at Town Meeting on March 11.