Valley News – Lebanon School Board Finalizes Terms of Reference, Including Round 4 with Renovation Funding

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Valley News Correspondent

Published: 01/28/2022 21:29:11

Modified: 01/28/2022 21:36:13

LEBANON — The school board voted on Wednesday to finalize terms of reference that will appear on the ballot in March’s municipal elections, including a scaled-down proposal to fund renovations that board members requested in three of the four elections previous ones.

The $14.34 million bond would fund projects at Hanover Street School and Lebanon High School, as well as raise $358,525 in taxes for first-year debt service payments on the bond .

“The longer we delay (the renovation project), the more it costs,” said board member Lilian Maughan. “It’s incumbent on us to think long-term and do the much-needed renovations…because I think the kids deserve it at this point.”

The first year of the Section 2 bond would impact 16 cents per $1,000 of estimated property value, or $48 on a $300,000 home, according to district business administrator Tim Ball. The article requires a 60% threshold to pass, while others only require a majority vote – previous efforts to fund school renovations have failed to meet the 60% threshold.

The school board voted, 8 to 1, to recommend the article, with President Richard Milius being the only no.

“There is no doubt that the work must be done; it’s just a matter of timing,” Milius said, also expressing concern that the renovation project‘s lack of plans to expand classroom space could prove problematic if the school sees an influx of students at the future.

Another subject returning to the ballot is the head of school resources, inserted by petition.

The residents’ decision will not be binding, like a similar vote last year, when a slim margin of 1,011 to 1,006 urged council to halt the scheme. Council members then elected to continue funding the position, the cost of which is shared with the city, in a 5-4 vote.

A proposed annual operating budget of just over $48 million is also put to the vote; the default budget will remain at nearly $47.5 million if the article is rejected. The proposed budget would have a tax impact of 67 cents per $1,000, or $201 for a house worth $300,000. The board voted unanimously to approve the article.

The residents will also decide the costs in the collective agreement between the district and the Lebanese Education Association. The money will be used to increase wages and benefits, with a tax impact of 30 cents per $1,000 in the first year, or $90 on a $300,000 home.

The school board voted, 8 to 1, to recommend the article, again with Milius dissenting.

“There is no doubt that teachers deserve it; I just think taxpayers can’t afford it,” Milius said, noting that taxes would also rise due to the new operating budget and bail.

Other items include transferring up to $600,000 into the district’s capital reserve fund for renovations. The money would come from the surplus at the end of the financial year, not from taxes. The School Board voted unanimously to approve the article.

Ball noted at the meeting that the fund is “nearly depleted” and could soon be empty without a cash injection, and Milius agreed.

“I think it’s extremely important to keep this fund as healthy as possible,” he said.

Elections for officials listed on the ballot include three seats on the school board, as well as a clerk, treasurer, and moderator for the district.

The deliberative session of the annual meeting will be held on February 5 at 9 am in the gymnasium of Hanover Street School. The official ballot will take place on March 8.

Lauren Adler can be contacted at [email protected]

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