College add-on of $ 17.8 million raises little debate


EXETER A hearing on the proposed addition of $ 17.8 million to the Cooperative Middle School and the school district's operating budget elicited little public comment late Tuesday.

About 15 members of the public attended the January 8 public hearing on the potential expansion of the middle school and proposed operating budget of $ 60,342,073.

The next step in the annual voting process for the Exeter District Cooperative School District is the Feb. 7 deliberation session, which will be followed by a March 12 ballot.

For the third consecutive year, a college construction proposal was put to the vote. An earlier proposal had not received the necessary 60% approval in the last two years. The current proposal represents a reduced version.

"In our vote last March, we heard loud and clear that taxpayers saw the need to improve what we were doing with space, but that the price to pay was a little more reasonable to their eyes, "David, Superintendent of UAA 16. Ryan said.

The new proposal would add 10 additional classrooms, expand the cafeteria, create a multipurpose room with storage space, a second elevator and create offices in a former technology space, currently used for PEs. This would take all teachers and students out of makeshift desks and educational spaces in closets.

Lucy Cushman, co-chair of the CMS Renewal Committee, said the committee was working to prioritize the needs of the school while putting in place a less costly plan. "Tonight we have a proposal that we believe addresses most of the needs of Cooperative Middle School students," Cushman said.

The plan would not add a second gym or space dedicated to music, two areas included in the failed plan.

CMS Director Patty Wons said the need for additional classrooms was needed from the beginning. "When the building opened, there were only 10 classrooms left," said Wons. "There are 10 short classrooms left."

The plan would allow Alt PE to move into the new multipurpose room, which would also provide space for the wrestling team (currently using a cafeteria space) to train and store their mats. Alt PE is currently held six times a day.

An expanded cafeteria would allow the school to serve all students one lunch three times instead of six.

"This limits the school calendar," said Wons about the existing cafeteria, where students start lunch at 10 am. "A cafeteria or lunch schedule should not dictate or dictate your school calendar."

The initial proposal, which cost $ 21.9 million in the vote in 2017 and $ 23 million last year, would now cost $ 27.2 million.

Superintendent Ryan provided an overview of the district's proposed operating budget of $ 60,342,073, which was preceded by a sample of student success stories.

Ryan outlined his top four priorities for this year's budget process, including a 0% increase in the general fund budget, with an operating budget of less than $ 60 million. A second objective was to reduce the balance of the unallocated fund, or the approved budget money not spent during the fiscal year, to 3% of the budget. For example, in recent years, the district has completed the fiscal year with an unallocated fund balance of just over $ 3 million, or 5.13% last year. They expect a balance of about $ 1.5 million in this budget, Ryan said.

The Superintendent also wanted to establish a baseline to correlate student performance expectations with budgeted cost drivers. To do this, they examined student results in Grades 3 to 8, then in Grade 11, to establish a baseline of their performance. This information was used as a starting point for deciding where to spend more time, energy and funds.

Budgetary factors this time included an 8.4% guarantee not to exceed health care costs, which the district reduced to 5.54% based on its review of actual costs. Special Education was able to reduce their overall budget by 2%, while adding an assistant director of special education for high school and moving an occupational therapist from 0.6 to a full-time position.

The proposed operating budget and the default budget were changed by $ 400,000 due to a calculation code in the accounting software system that resulted in a teacher's budget overrun, Markiewicz explained, overestimating the number of days worked per year. No additional funds were actually paid, but they were included in the draft global budget.