EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

March 6, 2013

Pelham to decide kindergarten addition

By John Toole
jtoole@eagletribune.com

---- — PELHAM — A $1.7 million kindergarten project and an $895,000 Town Hall renovation are before voters on the Town Meeting ballot Tuesday.

Both projects aim to address school district needs.

The four-room kindergarten addition proposed at Pelham Elementary School is slated for completion Dec. 1, if voters approve. Officials hope to use about $1 million in state aid for the project.

“Adding the four classrooms to Pelham Elementary School solves the kindergarten space issue for the foreseeable future,” School Board Chairman Brian Carton said. “Doing so will allow us to remove the portable that’s in place now, which we currently rent for about $120,000 a year.”

Sen. Chuck Morse, R-Salem, who represents Pelham, recently told the School Board that Pelham is one of just two towns in the state that may tap kindergarten aid.

“The governor has included this in the capital budget, which is a good sign,” Morse said yesterday.

Carton said that should put the town in a better place for state aid.

“We’ve budgeted for only $1 million in state aid, so there is some hope we might get even more funding from the state than anticipated,” he said.

A simple majority vote is required for passage.

The Town Hall renovation would provide offices for School Administrative Unit 28 administrators, relocating from Windham with the coming breakup of the two-town district.

Pelham becomes a standalone SAU on July 1. Windham then becomes the new SAU 95.

Superintendent-elect Amanda Lecaroz, who takes over from the retiring Henry LaBranche in July, has said the town could end up spending about as much for leased office space, if voters reject the Town Hall renovation.

Three-fifths voter approval is required for passage.

The proposed $27.5 million school budget includes $75,000 to design a high school addition for voters to consider next year.

A $13 million town budget also is before voters.

A new teachers’ contract is proposed. There is no added cost in the coming year, but the deal would cost taxpayers $360,000 to $400,000 annually over the subsequent three years.

Voters also will consider a $175,000 engineering study for replacing the Willow Street bridge.

Citizens have petitioned for a property tax break for disabled residents voters will consider. The article would give disabled residents $25,000 off their property’s assessed value, provided they meet income requirements.

A two-way race for cemetery trustee pits former trustee Richard Jensen against incumbent Walter Kosik for a three-year term.

Tom Gellar was the only candidate to file for one of two three-year terms on the School Board, leaving the other vacancy open to a write-in decision by voters.

The polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Pelham High, 85 Marsh Road.