2021 Raymond Budget Committee Meetings

Raymond Budget Committee Addresses both Town and School Budgets
By Penny Williams   1-13-21

The Raymond Budget Committee met on Tuesday, January 5, to review the Town Warrant and then met on Thursday, January 7, to review the School District Warrant. They didn't finish with the School District Warrant so met again on Tuesday, January 12.

The Tuesday, January 5, meeting heard from resident Carolyn Matthews who suggested that in these very difficult times the money taken from the Unassigned Fund Balance to fund  eight articles should be halved in order to reduce the  tax rate.

Town Manager Joe Ilsley said her points were well taken but the goal she sought to achieve by her suggested reduction of the Unassigned Fund Balance amounts would not achieve her goal as the tax rate has already been set. Money from the Unassigned Fund Balance can be used to reduce the tax rate but that happens in October when the Department of Revenue Administration is setting Town tax rates.

There were some comments about the purchase of the Bean Tavern with residents concerned about the continued cost to the town and tax payers for its maintenance. Ilsley said there are several options which can be decided on such as putting certain conveyances on the Bean Tavern building deed and then selling it.

Ilsley responded to other comments about cutting the taxes and the budget noting that cutting budget line items may reduces taxes but it also reduces the services that would be provided to residents.

The Public Hearing was concluded and the Budget Committee then discussed and voted on each Warrant Article. All the  Town Warrant Articles were Recommended, most 7 to 0 or unanimously.

However, Budget Committee member Carol Watjus  voted against the Mosquito Control Article and Watjus and Rani Merryman voted against the Service Agencies Article.

The Budget Committee on Thursday, January 7, held the Public Hearing for the Raymond School District Warrant. Watjus made the comment at the outset that the budget under discussion is the School's budget, not the Budget Committee's budget.

Resident Matthews asked for clarification of the number of teachers in the district. She was told the 118 number was correct and she expressed surprise at so few in number. She stated that she had hoped the contract negotiations for teachers would have paused during these difficult times and just held on to a status quo.

Watjus went into a long and involved discussion as a citizen not a board member asking when the school district knew state revenues would be reduced why they raised their budget anyway. She noted the district budget increases by as much as 5 percent annually. She indicated she wouldn't support the increased district budget.

The board, after closing the Public Hearing discussed the articles.

Watjus questioned the teachers contract.  She also questioned the estimated tax amount on the School Articles claiming that she, on behalf of the residents at the last Town Meeting, had asked that the Town and School both use the same tax estimate on articles and the school's tax estimate being the percent of increase is a violation of the will of the people who approved the article last year calling for this.

Member Rich Mulryan suggested reducing the budget by $150,000 but stated he didn't want the budget to be less than the Default budget. Rani Merryman continued the discussion about the reduction of state revenues but the school adding programs increasing the cost. She said this has not been dealt with this year.

However committee member Mike DiTommaso said there haven't been any new programs started this year but the possibility of Fremont sending its students to Raymond High should be kept in mind. He indicated that the School Board had made tough decisions and cut where the quality of student education was involved. He indicated he supported the budget as presented.

Article 10  was deemed a bad idea because the full impact of the revaluation isn't known.  Watjus discussed at length the subject of 2.5 percent of net assessment for the purpose of emergency preparedness or for use in reducing the tax rate and the changes to the law regarding this.  She complained that it was not a good idea to put $1,000,000 into that fund without any oversight over expenditure.

Member Kathy Hoelzel said she has hope that the Legislature will amend the new language of the law to address this concern.

Watjus then provided the board with a list of suggested cuts that amounted to $300,000  she said came from lines that did not harm student education. She claimed there are additional legitimate places in the budget where cuts can be made.

The board then adjourned with the decision to return on Tuesday, January 12, to finish their review and decide on recommendations for the School District Warrant.

The board reconvened Tuesday evening, January 12, and after a long discussion led by Watjus who provided an extensive list of areas where she suggested the school board could consider more efficiencies and after she reiterated her call for the school to use the same tax impact model as the town, the committee turned to voting to change, recommend or not recommend the Warrant Articles.

The Operating and default budget article, Article 2, came in for the longest discussion and a number of motions with reduced operating budget amounts were offered. After an agreement was arrived at, Janice Arsenault told the board they couldn't do things the way they did because they hadn't followed Roberts Rules. The discussion and motions went back and started over.

* Article 2 - School Operating Budget of $26,286,721 with a default budget of $26,237,757, was changed after several motions for different amounts were raised. The final figure of $26,186,721 was approved by a vote of 4 to 3 and that amount, $26,186,721 was recommended 4 to 3. This amount is $200,000 less than what the School Board requested and $51,036 less than the projected default budget.

* Article 3 - the Collective Bargaining agreement between the Board and the Teachers Union in the amount of $91,286 for the first year of the three year contract, year two $459,316, and year three $392,262. After another long discussion in which Watjus indicated and Merryman agreed that the actual tax impact in years two and three would greatly exceed the  10 percent tax impact of the first year to the tune of 45 and 40 percent. They thought voters should be aware of this. The Committee voted 5 to 2 to recommend.

* Article 4 - calls for a special meeting if Article 3 is defeated but has no money was discussed and the committee decided to vote to be on the safe side and voted 4 to 3 to recommend.

* Article 5 - Increased the district's treasurer's stipend by $750 to $3,750  and after another discussion this was recommended 6 to 1.

* Article 6 - calls for a $500 stipend for training a deputy treasurer  drew discuss against from Watjus and Merryman because the amount of the stipend and the tax impact are already in the operating budget which the committee voted to change. The committee voted 4 to 3 to recommend this article.

* Article 7 -  Raise and Appropriate $375,000 to be distributed among the following CIP Fund Accounts: $183,998to the Raymond School District Equipment, Facilities Maintenance, and Replacement Capital Reserve Fund; $151,992 to go into Technology Capital Reserve Fund; and, Food Service Equipment Capital Reserve Fund would get $39,010. Watjus stated that she considers this a supplemental budget and that the CIP is not being done or used correctly and Merryman agreed. The committee after a discussion voted 5 to 2 to recommend.

* Article 8 - Raise and Appropriate $75,000 to be placed in the existing Equipment, Facilities Maintenance, and Replacement Capital Reserve Fund  to be funded from year end fund balance available on July 17 - the committee after a discussion similar to that on Article 7, voted to recommend this by a 5 to 2 vote.

* Article 9 -Raise and Appropriate $10,003 to be added to the Equipment, Facilities  Maintenance, and Replacement Capital Reserve Fund with this money to come from the income generated by the water easement conveyed to the town with no amount to be raised from taxation - the committee voted 7-0 to recommend

* Article 10 - Shall the district adopt the revisions to RSA 198:4-b, II approved by the Legislature in 2020 to allow the district to retain up to 5 percent of the district's net assessment in any year and to allow expenditure of any amount retained after a public hearing. Watjus and Merryman made the point that this is an increase from 2.5 percent and that no one would have oversight over what the five school board members do with the money in the fund. Hoelzel made the point the Legislature is considering returning the checks and balances to this law. The committee voted 4 to 3 to NOT recommend this article.

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