EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

February 7, 2013

$1.7M school plan headed to Town Meeting

By John Toole

---- — PELHAM — A $1.7 million kindergarten project is headed to voters at Town Meeting.

Officials outlined the project during last night’s school deliberative session at Town Hall.

The four-room addition to Pelham Elementary School has a target completion date of Dec. 1.

School district administrators hope to qualify for up to $1 million in state aid for the project.

About 50 of the town’s nearly 8,300 registered voters attended the deliberative session.

Voters also moved to the March 12 ballot a $27.5 million budget.

About $140,000 was trimmed from the budget proposal in the warrant, after School Board chairman Brian Carton delivered good news that bids came in lower than expected for sprinkler improvements at the elementary school.

Superintendent-elect Amanda Lecaroz said officials also have put aside $75,000 to design a high school addition to put before voters next year.

Technology improvements will help students, she said. “Our classrooms will have more of a 21st-century learning opportunity.”

The spending plan eliminates two teaching positions because of declining enrollments.

The budget would add about 18 cents to the $24.40 per $1,000 property valuation tax rate.

Voters also will be asked to support a new teacher contract. There is no added cost in the coming year, but the deal will cost taxpayers an extra $360,000 to $400,000 annually over the subsequent three years.

Officials said the expense is necessary to close the pay gap with neighboring school districts.

“We are losing teachers to neighboring districts because we are so far behind,” School Board member Deb Ryan said.