By Doug Ireland
---- — KINGSTON — The days of voters rejecting funding increases may be over for good in the Sanborn Regional School District.
Kingston and Newton residents voted last night to increase the proposed operating budget by more than $97,100 to $31.7 million at the request of Tammy Gluck of Newton.
They also reviewed proposed contracts for teachers and support staff during the hourlong district deliberative session at Sanborn Regional High School. Residents will vote on the five warrant articles March 12.
Gluck made a motion to restore money she said the Budget Committee cut, including funding for a teaching position and various programs at the high school. One of these programs honored seniors for their achievements.
“They are very important items that need to be put back into our budget to recognize the hard work our students try to do to better their education,” she said.
Adding the money increases the operating budget 1.3 percent. The original $31.6 million proposal called for a 1 percent increase.
And the buck doesn’t stop there.
The three-year contract for teachers and two-year deal for the support staff would add hundreds of thousands of dollars to the district budget.
But voters’ approval of the contracts is necessary if Sanborn hopes to remain competitive with area school districts, according to School Board Vice Chairman Janice Bennett.
Bennett and Superintendent Brian Blake said the district has made significant progress in retaining key personnel and improving programs since voters approved the current teachers contract two years ago.
“Passing the professional and staff contracts would continue to be the wind beneath the district’s wings,” Bennett told the approximately 150 voters.
For three years in a row, voters defeated new contracts for teachers, putting the district at a competitive disadvantage compared to others, Blake said.
“Our top-end (pay) is low compared to many of the surrounding districts,” he said. “We hope we can make ground up over time. We are fortunate that voters supported the last contract.”
The three-year teachers contract calls for annual raises of 1, 1.5 and 2 percent. This means overall cost increases of $519,167 for 2013-2014, $459,466 for 2014-2015 and $529,314 for 2015-2016. The increases were recommended by the School Board and Budget Committee.
The two-year support staff contract offered 2 percent cost-of-living increases. Support staff include paraprofessionals, secretaries and speech and language assistants.
The contract seeks cost increases of $99,495 for 2013-2014 and $74,973 for 2014-2015. The increases are recommended by the School Board and Budget Committee.
Just before the session concluded, Kingston Selectman Peter Broderick told fellow voters he was concerned the amended $31,683,946 operating budget would be defeated because of the addition of $97,100.
If rejected, a default budget of $31,519,733 would be enacted, meaning cuts would be necessary.
“When you start increasing the operating budget, you start increasing the number of people who are going to vote against it,” Broderick said.
He proposed an amendment that requires the potential tax impact be printed on the ballot. The amendment was approved.
The deliberative session was attended by approximately 100 of Kingston’s 4,034 voters, according to Deputy Town Clerk Holly Ouellette. Fifty-three of Newton’s 3,180 voters attended.