Thursday March 7, 2013

WESTMINSTER -- Residents within the Windham Northeast Supervisory Union adopted a seven-figure budget for Bellows Falls Union High School on Tuesday.

Voters in Rockingham, Westminster, Grafton and Athens used an Australian ballot to pass a budget of $7,120,375 for BFUHS by a 754-494 margin. Votes from the four towns are added up cumulatively to determine the outcome. Athens was the only individual town to vote against the budget, 16-23.

Rockingham voted 390-294, Westminster adopted it by a 233-126 vote and Grafton voted 115-51.

BFUHS Board member Stephen Fine, who represents Athens, told the Reformer he is not sure why the town did not adopt the budget, but said it seems like it does so almost every year.

"It undoubtedly has something to do with what the tax rate will be like," he said. When asked if he was personally happy with the budget, Fine said, "I can live with it. ‘Happy' is not a word I would use."

WNESU Superintendent Chris Kibbe said he is pleased all the budgets were passed. Also adopted in the past week were a $10,432,126 budget (up 5.9 percent due to renovations at Bellows Falls Middle School) for the Rockingham Town School District, a $5,132,811 budget for Westminster schools, $2,812,062 for the River Valley Technical Center and the Athens/Grafton Joint Contract School District budget of $1,461,890 for kindergarten through sixth grade and sums of money from Grafton and Athens to educate its children in kindergarten through eighth grade.

"A lot of work goes into the production of budgets. Board members put in an enormous amount of time into the figures -- that really starts in September," Kibbe said. "It's a long budgeting process."

He also wanted to thank administrators and staff members for their hard work.

He said the budget is up 1.3 percent but the actual amount to be raised by taxes (otherwise known as educational spending) is down $27,166.

BFUHS Principal Chris Hodsden said it is a relief to know the budget has been adopted and all school employees can go about their jobs of educating the area's youth.

"There's always that level of anxiety of voting at budget time. But there's less of that if you feel like you've done your job well and let the community know what you're buying with their tax money," he told the Reformer.

He said the process involved getting feedback from the public to gauge peoples' feelings about the budget.

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.