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March 13, 2014

Economy blamed for school budget defeats

Officials blame economy, taxes

In what is becoming a growing trend, three local school districts saw their proposed budgets rejected at Town Meeting on Tuesday.

Hampstead, Sanborn and Timberlane school districts will all be operating under default budgets in the 2014-2015 school year.

“It was truly disastrous,” outgoing Hampstead School Board Chairman Natalie Gallo said.

Hampstead voters rejected the school district’s $23.8 million operating budget, 924-669. The default budget is $23.7 million.

“I think we think of Hampstead as an affluent community,” Gallo said. “Perhaps that’s a misread. Maybe we’re underestimating the situation of people in our community and that has to be taken into consideration.”

Hampstead voters also rejected a $6.18 million renovation to Hampstead Central and Middle Schools, 1,170-431. That project needed a three-fifths majority to pass and didn’t come close.

Last year, just Pelham and Windham voters rejected their school budgets. In 2012, only Windham rejected its budget.

Timberlane Regional School Board Chairman Rob Collins said the district is preparing to move forward. The voters rejected the district’s $66.4 million proposal and will now go with the default budget of $65.9 million.

“We’re going to have a tighter ship to run with less surplus,” Collins said. “We’re going to continue to put the students as our top priority. We’ll absolutely take into consideration what happened during this election season as we progress with our next budget.”

Sandown voters were the most vocal in rejecting Timberlane’s budget, 855-264. Sandown residents saw their property taxes increase by 30 percent this year.

“I think the election results are a rebuke to the school board and the SAU,” Budget Committee member Donna Green of Sandown said. “I think voters are making it pretty clear that they want more constraint with the budget.”

Green led a charge to try to reduce the Timberlane budget by nearly $4 million at the deliberative session last month, but was turned down by the voters.

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