$8,250,000 to upgrade the Lamprey River Elementary School in Raymond
By Penny Williams 2-8-16

About 100 residents gathered at Raymond High School for the School District Deliberative Session on Saturday morning, Feb. 6 to address a warrant that has several big-ticket items under consideration.

Assistant School District Moderator Kathleen Hoelzel was sworn in as the Pro Tem Moderator for the session in the absence of  School District Moderator Tim Louis. Before the Warrant Articles came under discussion, a brief remembrance of long-time Raymond High School Principal John Callahan was held.

While Article 2, a bond for the proposed construction and renovation project at Lamprey River Elementary School was the first article discussed and drew the most attention, it was Article 7, the last article on the Warrant, a citizen’s petition concerning the after-school program, that was subjected to the only amendment.

Article 2, even after a lengthy presentation and many questions and comments, most of which were in support of the bond, was moved to the ballot without any change.

Article 2 seeks $8,250,000 for the construction, furnishing and equipping of an addition and renovations to Lamprey River Elementary School. The Meridian Company, chosen for the project, provided a presentation explaining the design and construction of a two-story, 12-classroom addition that would replace the school’s attached and stand-alone portables, which were described as inefficient energy wise, substandard and unsafe.

The addition would not only replace those buildings but would add additional classrooms, with the justification that it would keep all third grade classes together in six classrooms, and the same for the fourth grade classes.

The construction would include a new gymnasium that could be sealed off from the rest of the school and made available for community use on weekends, complete with its own secured entrance, lobby and bathroom facilities.

The plan also provides moving the administration area, providing secure entrance and reception areas, and improving nurse, guidance and special education spaces. An energy-efficient heating system, a new septic system and a 10,000-gallon underground oil tank are also part of the proposed plan.

The existing school building, which is within the flood plain, would receive dry flood-proofing, and the drop-off and pick-up traffic flow design would allow for students to enter directly into the main building from two separate doors.

The School Board approved seeking a 20-year bond for the plan with an estimated interest rate of 4.25 percent, with the year one bond payment of $206,250 carrying an estimated tax impact of 0.24 cents per $1,000 of property valuation. In year 1 the estimated tax amount on a house valued at $200,000 would be $48, but would rise in year 2 to $160 on that same house, and in year 21 it would be $100.

The School Board recommended Article 2 by a vote of  3-1-1; the Budget Committee recommended the article 4-3.

Several speakers, most of them educators, spoke of problems with the portables and the need for better facilities for both students and teachers. Resident Kathy Lee called the portables "unacceptable." Another speaker called them a "disgrace" and said the correction was 30 years overdue.

A motion to restrict reconsideration was unanimously approved. Article 2 was moved to the ballot as written and before Article 3 came under discussion, a large portion of the audience left the Deliberative, including families who had come with their young children in tow.

An audience reduced by close to half addressed Articles 3 through 5, and when Articles 6 and 7 were reached, only a few people remained.

Article 3, the School District Operating Budget of $23,285,667, is $150,429 or an 0.7 percent increase over the 2015-2016 Operating Budget. The default budget, which goes into effect if the operating budget is defeated, is $23,327,436.

School Board Chairwoman Diane Naoum provided the explanation of the operating budget, touching on full-day kindergarten and specifying the drivers as health insurance, student services, transportation, equipment and furniture, as well as diminished estimated revenues. She said the tax impact would amount to .54 cents per $1,000 worth of property value.

The article was recommended 5-0 by the School Board and 7-0 by the Budget Committee. It was moved to the ballot as presented and the audience voted to restrict reconsideration.

Article 4 was presented to an even smaller audience, as more people left following the moving of the Operating Budget article. Article 4 is the two-year collective bargaining agreement between the Raymond School Board and the Raymond Education Association (REA) that has an estimated increase of $242,133 in the first year and $255,810 in the second covering the 132 REA members.

The presentation documented turnover of Raymond teachers and pointed out that many left for higher salaries in neighboring school districts. Speakers said teachers are "severely underpaid" and need to be "supported."

The School Board recommended the article 3-0 and the Budget Committee recommended it 4-3. The article was moved to the ballot as presented and the audience voted to restrict reconsideration.

Article 5 is the pro forma article allowing for a special meeting should Article 4 fail to address the cost item only, and it was moved to the warrant without change.

After a short break for lunch, the greatly diminished crowd took up Article 6, the appropriation of $214,000, with $205,000 to be put into the district equipment, facilities maintenance and replacement Capital Reserve Fund, and $9,000 to be put into the textbook Capital Reserve Fund. This article would have no tax impact and no changes were offered.

The School Board recommended the article 3-1-1 and the Budget Committee recommended it 7-0. The article was forwarded to the ballot and the audience voted to restrict reconsideration of this article and the next article, Article 7, as well.

Article 7 was the only article amended. The petition article sought $194,000 for the after-school program at Iber Holmes Gove Middle School and Lamprey River Elementary School.

Tammy Reardon spoke to the article and presented an amendment after learning that if the article passed as written, the district would forfeit any 21st Century grant for the program. She offered an amendment that reduced the dollar amount to $1 and added that if the article failed, the School District would submit an application for 21st Century Funding for the program.

The school attorney said the reduction of the $194,000 to $1 preserved the right for the district to apply for and use a 21st Century grant. He said the last sentence of the amendment was strictly advisory so it had no impact one way or the other.

Speakers were supportive of the program and concerned about the impact of its loss. It was pointed out that there is $88,500 in the budget for the program but that money is contingent on getting a 21st Century Grant, and if the grant isn't available, the program will not exist. Most of the discussion was focused on making sure the amendment wouldn't harm the program, and the amendment was approved, with the amended article moved to the ballot.

The Budget Committee went into session to reconsider its vote not to recommend Article 7 as it was originally written, and voted 3-2 to recommend the amended article. The School Board also went into session to reconsider its 5-0 vote not to recommend Article 7 and voted 4-0-1 to recommend the amended article.

The warrant will face the voters on March 8.

To watch the town deliberative session on RCTV
click on Raymond School Deliberative Session










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