EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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March 29, 2013

There's no new school construction aid

The state’s moratoriums on school aid construction and charter schools are expected to continue.

That dampens hopes for new educational initiatives in Southern New Hampshire.

It also means local taxpayers will have to foot the entire bill if they approve school construction projects. For Salem residents, there will be no state aid available for the $16.2 million in renovation projects they approved this month for three elementary schools.

It also means after Next charter high school opens in Derry this fall, there will be no new charter schools coming to the area.

Members of the House Finance Committee decided to cut back on education programs this week. That includes money for the state’s university system, as they consider how to fund Gov. Maggie Hassan’s two-year state budget without relying on projected revenue from casino gambling. Lawmakers are considering expanded gambling legislation, but nothing has been passed.

Just after Salem received aid for the $21 million renovation of Barron, Lancaster and North Salem schools a few years ago, the state adopted its moratorium on school construction aid, Salem school Superintendent Michael Delahanty said.

So there was no hope for obtaining state aid — which could have come in handy — when residents voted earlier this month to renovate the Fisk, Soule and North Salem schools, Delahanty said.

Extending the school aid moratorium could also mean no state money for planned renovations of Woodbury School and Salem High School. Taxpayers would have to foot the entire bill.

The extended moratorium could also have an impact on communities planning school projects.

Two weeks ago, Windham voters defeated plans for a $31 million middle school. Pelham voters rejected a $1.7 million kindergarten project.

Henry LaBranche, superintendent for the two school districts, said although Windham and Pelham voters were more concerned about their taxes increasing, the school aid moratorium was probably on at least some residents’ minds.

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