HAMPSTEAD — An hour of conversation produced no changes to the warrant articles at the school district’s deliberative session last night. The 97 of 6,267 registered voters who came to Hampstead Middle School, listened to nine articles that will appear on the ballot at Town Meeting on March 12.
Much of the discussion revolved around a citizen’s petition made by resident Jorge Mesa-Tejada. He proposed that the School Administrative Unit 55 budget be approved by the voters of the district.
“It is just the ability for the voters to have a say in the SAU’s budget,” Mesa-Tejada said.
The article was met with some backlash from School Board members and residents.
“Every year, the SAU discusses, in nauseating detail, the salaries of the 12 employees,” said School Board member Gregory Hoppa. “I think the voters have insight into the process when they elect their school board members in both Timberlane and Hampstead.”
SAU 55 represents the Timberlane and Hampstead school districts.
School Board member Jim Stewart said that if the article passed it would take much power out of their hands.
“We are a fiscally responsible group,” Stewart said. “This would dilute what little ability we have to manage the SAU.”
Resident Tom Hung stood up and called the article a “slap in the face.”
“(This article) is a slap to the face of the SAU board,” Hung said. “It’s a slap in the faces of not only the administration of the SAU, but the collective boards of the Hampstead and Timberlane school systems.”
A similar article is also on the warrant for the Timberlane School District. They will be holding their deliberative session tomorrow night. The article must get a combined majority vote in the Timberlane and Hampstead school districts to be taken into effect.
Mesa-Tejada also proposed an amendment to an article that proposes the district retain up to 2.5 percent of its surplus for emergency situations. He proposed that the name of the warrant be changed to a contingency fund, and that the district should deposit no more than $100,000 to the fund each year.
“This puts the language into an article so you know exactly how much would be deposited and how it would be recorded,” Mesa-Tejada said.
The amendment was overwhelmingly turned down by the voters.
“I think the article as it is, is a financially responsible way to take a look and check yourself against big ticket items that come up unexpectedly,” said Superintendent Dr. Earl Metzler.
There was no discussion to the proposed $23.7 million budget and collective bargaining agreements with the Hampstead support personnel and teachers. Both will be going to ballot with no amendments.
At the end of the session, there was a standing ovation for School Board chairperson Judy Graham. Graham will not be re-seeking election in March after many years of service.