Residents in area communities heard details of proposed town and school district spending plans and warrant articles as annual deliberative sessions filled local high school gymnasiums and auditoriums this past weekend.
Some meetings went swiftly with little discussion made from residents attending in person or virtually. Other voters took time to consider the numbers and often wanted a bit more clarification on what will be listed on the town and school ballots at the polls on March 9.
Derry hosted its annual school meeting Saturday morning with dozens of residents coming out to the West Running Brook Middle School gymnasium to hear details on the proposed budget for next year.
After about two hours, the proposed operating budget number of $92,851,401 was sent on to the March ballot after an amendment was approved to lower the total by $300,000.
Former school board member Dan McKenna brought that amendment forward. The budget had already been amended at a recent public hearing, reinstating two home/school coordinator jobs that were slated to be cut.
The two home/school jobs were among several proposed to be cut from the district's budget. The others include a district librarian position, ESOL assistants and one elementary classroom teacher.
The budget also includes the addition of a new middle school classroom for the New England Center for Children, a program that provides comprehensive services for children with autism.
Pinkerton Academy's proposed $29 million budget is also included in the operating budget, including the high school's general and special education programs and costs.
Derry's town budget isn't approved at the polls. The Town Council will begin its budget business soon with approval set for May.
Londonderry hosted both its school district and town deliberative sessions this past weekend. The school meeting last Friday night brought out about 73 voters to hear details on the district's proposed $81.4 million operating budget for next year. In addition to the budget, warrant articles moving to the March ballot include: $25,000 to be placed in the school district's Equipment Capital Reserve Fund; $75,000 for the Vehicle and Machinery Fund, and $600,000 to be placed in a Buildings and Grounds Capital Reserve Fund.
In his remarks, school Superintendent Scott Laliberte told those attending it hasn't been "a typical year," and the district and its staff and students made many quick changes in how they learned and taught due to the pandemic.
"Schools rely on traditions and customs," Laliberte said. "We had to reinvent the entire system."
That included finding new ways to teach, use technology differently, and managing schools to be the safest and healthiest during the pandemic.
On Londonderry's town side, officials began the Saturday morning meeting with awards and tributes including honoring Volunteer of the Year Cindi Rice Conley, Citizen of the Year and fire Chief Darren O'Brien, and two awards given posthumously to longtime town employee Rick Brideau and Town Councilor Tom Freda.
Others were honored for years of service to the town in various departments.
The town's proposed operating budget moving to the March ballot is $38.9 million; other warrant articles moving to the March ballot include: $180,000 to be placed in the town's Expendable Maintenance Trust Fund; $650,000 for the Roadway Maintenance Expendable Trust Fund; $75,000 for Pillsbury Road expansion, and $100,000 for the fire equipment capital reserve fund.
Voters will also consider an article at the polls to purchase five acres of Mack's land for $250,000. This article was amended and funding, if approved by voters, will come from the town's unreserved fund balance.
Windham's school district deliberative session lasted less than an hour, with school district Moderator Betty Dunn telling a sparse crowd at the high school she hoped to do business "efficiently and effectively."
She kept her word, with the proposed $56.6 million school operating budget quickly moving on to the March ballot.
Other school warrant articles include a collective bargaining agreement with the Windham Education Association and $250,000 for the special education capital reserve fund.
On Windham's town side, many warrant articles were discussed in less than two hours.
Windham's proposed town operating budget is $16.7 million after being amended to add in $15,000 for support of the Community Development budget during that department's reorganization.
Other warrant articles moving to the Windham ballot include: $750,000 for a new fire engine; $365,000 to purchase two new plow trucks for the Highway Department; $93,770 to pay a final lease payment on an ambulance that, if approved, the town would own; $110,000 for fire station roof repairs, and $50,000 to support Phase One of the Town Common Beautification Project.
Other articles deal with the town's trail system, cemetery care, solar power efforts at the Nesmith Library, and the potential start of a tax increment financing, or TIF, district in town.
Election day is March 9. Polls are open in Londonderry at the high school gym from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Windham voters cast ballots from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Windham High School gym. All four voting districts in Derry will vote at West Running Brook Middle School, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Towns will also choose elected officials for both town and school district positions.