Newton-Kingston Taxpayers Association

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Please Vote Newton & Kingston

Posted on March 5, 2019 at 7:10 AM Comments comments (0)

PLEASE VOTE Kingston and Newton

by Annie Collyer for the Newton-Kingston Taxpayers Association

Here in New Hampshire, Voters have a lot of control over their local government and schools.

Each March, the ballot booths open for local voting on budgets, candidates and other proposals for their tax dollars. The decisions made at the polls each year determine over 90% of our local property taxes. They also determine how and what kind of forward planning will be implemented, as well as who will be leading the day-to-day decision-making in our towns and School District over the coming year.

This year, there are candidates who are running for School Board and School Budget Committee positions, for Town Selectmen, Planning Boards, and other Town officials. Bring your id and vote between 8 AM and 8 PM, at the Swasey Gym in Kingston and at Newton Town Hall.

The proposed budgets, set for approval in the Deliberative Sessions held in February, will be before you in the voting booths. In both the School District voting and in Newton, the estimated tax impact is on the ballot, as well as the estimated impact of budget defeat. If a budget is defeated, the default budget will come into effect at the beginning of the fiscal year beginning in 2019. In Kingston, no estimated tax impact information is given.

The rest of the warrant articles follow, each needing your vote. In both towns, there are several warrants articles that appear each year. Kingston has several Reserve Funds which operate like savings accounts. For instance, if approved, Article 13 will authorize the purchase of land with no new tax impact, because it will be purchased with money in a savings account called a Capital Reserve fund.

Newton used Capital Reserves to purchase a new fire truck a couple of years ago. Because of a warrant to build a new fire station, the town held off on asking to start refurbishing that fund. This year, they are resuming that practice with Article 15.

The Sanborn Regional School District is seeking to fund reserve accounts as well, with articles 9 & 10. The proposal is to use monies left unspent at year-end, rather than raise additional taxes. It will still be taxpayer money, just not new money. Instead of giving some of the money back as a tax credit at yearend, it will be retained in savings accounts.

Very important this year are two proposed staff contracts in the School District, one for teachers and one for the support staff. Both have total projected increases close to inflation, based on current staffing, restrained in part by a small increase in the rate of employee insurance contributions.

Also on the ballot is a proposed removal of the word “elementary” from the School District Articles of Agreement. The District is currently noncompliant with State Law and this change will bring the District into compliance.

BE SURE TO VOTE. If you will be out of town all day, you can get an absentee ballot.

 

Ice Hockey Warrant Article

Posted on February 15, 2019 at 8:35 AM Comments comments (0)

Ice Hockey Warrant Article for Sanborn

By Annie Collyer for the Newton-Kingston Taxpayers Association (NKTA)

The Sanborn Regional School District has had a group of parents who formed an Ice Hockey Boosters Club 7 years ago. They appealed to the School District to permit them to become a team, first a JV and in recent years a Varsity Team.

The original plan was that the Boosters cover all the costs, with none to the District.

Now, as a Varsity team, they are appealing to the voters to create a line item in the budget for Ice Hockey, by approving this warrant article.

What the Boosters Club is seeking is funding for Ice Hockey at a level like that provided for other teams. They ask that the costs for intramural sports, coaches, uniforms and the like be covered by the taxpayers, while the Boosters Club continues to raise money for expensive ice time.

In the past two years, this warrant article has come before the voters and been rejected. The loss was narrow in 2018, and a Go-Fund-Me campaign raised the funds requested in the warrant.

In the past, Football had a similar beginning, first as a self-funding Boosters Club, then by petition warrant, becoming a sport fully funded by the taxpayers as a budget item. It grew from $25,000 in cost to $50,000 today.

There are concerns on both sides of the issue. One, is the growing budget. The fact of the stated intent of the Booster Club original founders that they would not be seeking public monies to fund the sport swayed past School Boards to vote not to recommend this warrant article. This year, the School Board and Budget Committees have voted to recommend this warrant article.

On the side of approval is that the sport has become one of the mainstream sports in the District, as a full Varsity team. It is part of the District’s long-term plan to encourage sports and other co-curricular activities in order to further engage children, both players and spectators, in healthy activities.

The cost to taxpayers is estimated at 0.01 cent per thousand of assessed value on the proposed ballot. The actual cost is less than that, but one cent is the lowest number that can be placed on the warrant.

Will the line item grow in the future? Most probably with inflation. Superintendent Ambrose stated in a recent Budget Committee meeting that his Administration would never seek to fund ice time, given the state intent of this warrant article.

The Newton-Kingston Taxpayers Association is a NH non-profit corporation, whose mission is to seek excellence in education and local government at affordable and sustainable costs to the community. You will find studies and statements at www.NKTA.vpweb.com, and on our Facebook page. The cost to join is $20/year/family.

 

Town Deliberative Sessions

Posted on February 12, 2019 at 10:35 AM Comments comments (0)

Newton and Kingston Deliberative Sessions Finalize Warrants

By Annie Collyer, for the Newton-Kingston Taxpayers Association

Both Kingston and Newton held their Town Deliberative Sessions on Saturday, February 2. Per State statute, the Deliberative Session is the first phase of local voting for town government funding. The second phase is voting at Ballot Booths on March 12.

The operating budget proposals and other warrants in both towns carry total estimated increases to property taxes that are below inflation.

Newton’s proposed operating budget is $3,341,078, representing a $0.014 estimated mil rate increase. It is lower than the default budget.

Many of the other proposed warrants are repeats of prior years, so already in the current appropriations. New proposed increases, for cemetery paving, the Fire Capital Reserve Fund, and for town beach lifeguards amount to a mil rate increase estimated at $0.05. (Lifeguards were appropriated last year, but the appropriations were unspent and returned to taxpayers as credits.) The total is an estimated tax increase for the town portion of property taxes of $16.76 for the average residential property. Matt Burrill, Selectman, credited the Department Heads for their ongoing frugality.

In Kingston, the proposed operating budget is $5,824,307, a 2.41% increase before offsetting revenues. Most of the other warrant articles are repeats of what has been approved in past March votes, with their tax impact already in the current property tax. That means most of proposed tax increases is from the operating budget. Kingston does not give estimated tax impact on its warrants.

Several of the warrants cover land use and care of town forests, some supported by elected officials and some not. One warrant for a new woodchipper it is argued will be offset by lower rental equipment costs.

There are two warrants that are new. #20 is to fund milfoil control in the town ponds. It is currently being done by divers, and the proposed additional investment is ongoing funding. It should be noted that property owners pay a waterfront tax surcharge to fund treatment of invasive species by the towns.

Article 26, designed to help property owners invest in historic buildings and get tax relief, is not supported by the majority of elected town leaders at this time. The same is true of Article 28. For both, the opinion is that more work is needed.

Larry Heath, of the Town Budget Committee, lauded the Fire Department for “a really impressive job of crossing their t’s and dotting their i’s.” He noted that Kingston does a good job of establishing and funding town savings accounts, called Capital Reserve Funds, to even out the tax impact of investing in town resources.

To see a full discussion and be fully informed, please watch the video and see the minutes on the town websites and cable stations.

This is brought to you by the Newton-Kingston Taxpayers Association, whose mission is to inform the voters for excellence in education and local government at affordable and sustainable costs. For more information please seewww.NKTA.vpweb.com.

 

Vote for Warrant #8

Posted on February 11, 2019 at 1:40 PM Comments comments (0)

Dear Sanborn Voters,

Please support School District Warrant Article 8 to amend the approximately 60-year-old Articles of Agreement for the Sanborn Regional School District. Removing the word ‘Elementary” will bring both compliance with state law and options to best configure the District in the future.

Elementary is defined in state law as grades K-6 or K-8. Currently the Bakie Elementary School in Kingston is not in compliance, having only K-5. Newton houses all 6th graders, but not at the Memorial Elementary School, which is also K-5. (Both schools also have Pre-K, which is outside this compliance issue.) With our current configuration, we don’t have any elementary schools in our District that meet the state definition.

Even more important than the compliance issue, is that future decision-making to best allocate our District’s resources is severely limited without this amendment.

The District presented an independent NESDEC study this fall which forecast future continued enrollment decline, and suggested options to most efficiently use our facilities. These options bear research and study.

The School Board has asked School Superintendent Ambrose to study the feasibility and impact of closing the Middle School (which needs hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars in renovations) and moving grades 7 & 8 to the High School where there is existing capacity in a much more modern facility. Mr. Ambrose and his staff are conducting an extensive study that includes evaluating the educational, logistical and fiscal advantages and challenges of creating a separate middle school facility within the high school.

The School Board asked for this study, because any implementation, if it makes sense when the study is completed, would be possible under the existing Articles of Agreement.

The NESDEC study also showed options that the Superintendent says are educational best practices, of consolidating grade levels at the Bakie and Memorial schools. Without the requested change in the articles, the value of these options and any advantages to Kingston and Newton cannot reasonably be investigated. To spend the amount of analytical time and resources on something not even possible to be done under the current Articles of Agreement would be a foolhardy waste of District resources.

The first step is to pass Warrant Article 8. A 2/3 majority is needed to pass the article. Some have expressed concern about giving the Administration and our elected representatives this responsibility. However, we elect them partly to do this kind of analysis and future planning. In fact, there will be extensive Public Hearings as a part of the process along with many public opportunities to examine recommended changes and comment on the pluses and minuses and needed adjustments. Without this change in the articles combined with continued falling enrollments, there is no ability to plan or make needed changes to avert overspending on facilities at the expense of much needed investment in improvements designed to help students learn.

Please vote YES for Article 8, bring Bakie and Memorial schools into state compliance and open up additional better academic and fiscal practices for our District.

 

Reserve Funds For Sanborn District

Posted on February 9, 2019 at 12:40 AM Comments comments (0)

Sanborn Regional School District Seeks to Establish Reserve Funds

by Annie Collyer for the Newton-Kingston Taxpayers Association (NKTA)

The Sanborn Regional School District has proposed warrant articles for voter approval this year, to establish and begin to fund Reserves for the District.

Budgets are best estimates of what will be needed in the coming year. They are formulated with a process that begins in early fall, just as the school year prior is beginning. They do provide for some possible expansion of costs that are not anticipated, which is considered a good budgeting procedure.

In past years, prior to NKTA being established in 2015, past school boards and administrators practiced taking some of that unspent money at year-end to spend on capital improvements, prepay fuel and more recently for unbudgeted chrome books to be placed in the hands of students. Putting in full-day Kindergarten with those monies, a year after the plan was rejected by the voters at the polls, also caused past angry reactions and distrust.

Taxpayers were angry at this lack of prior planning and transparency, believing that if a capital improvement or a technology change is a good idea in the opinion of the District leaders, it was more transparent to bring the proposal before the voters for approval, rather than spend taxpayer dollars not in the original approved budget plan, at year-end.

Even though some of the expenditures may have been good ideas, the way they were done was considered deceitful by some. The result was divisiveness in the District, rejection of proposed budgets and rejection of staff contracts.

With the current Administration and elected District officials, the goal is more transparency and planning. Year-end spending sprees have stopped, with the advent of NKTA and our combined political pressure. Instead of actions that invited anger and distrust in the past, the Administration, School Board and Budget Committee are working with all members of the community to implement transparent planning and budgeting for the District.

Article 9 that will be on your ballots on March 12 asks voters to establish an Unanticipated Educational Expenses Capital Reserve Fund. The fund is designed to be a transparent way to provide for emergency money should a needed and unplanned expense arise during the academic and fiscal year. The funding request is for $75,000, to be funded with unspent budgeted money at year-end. As a result, there will be no tax impact for the coming year.

Article 10 asks voters to allow funding of up to $25,000 out of year-end unspent money, for the existing Capital Reserve Fund.

It needs to be pointed out, there will be a tax impact in the following year. Both the $75,000 and the $25,000, if funded, will come out of money that would otherwise be returned to the towns to partially offset taxes for the following year.

NKTA is a NH non-profit corporation, fully volunteer, to inform voters in order to work toward excellence in education and local government at affordable and sustainable costs. www.NKTA.vpweb.com

 

Proposed School Staff Contracts

Posted on February 3, 2019 at 10:30 AM Comments comments (0)

Staff Contracts Up For Voter Approval at Sanborn Regional School District

By Annie Collyer, for the Newton-Kingston Taxpayers Association (NKTA)

This year on March 12, at the ballot booths in Kingston and Newton, voters will be voting on the proposed staff contracts for the teachers, called Professional Staff, and for the Support Staff.

These proposed contracts have multi-year impact.

The Professional Staff Contract will cost $508,964 in FY 2019-2020, an estimate based on existing staffing, insurance elections and educational attainment. The following year, there will be another increase of $529,794.

There are some significant changes in this contract from prior years. The employee insurance contribution is increasing from 10% where it has held for a long time, by 1% a year. The cost of living increase is 1.75%. In addition to Cost of Living increases, there is a matrix that awards step increases for years of service and continuing education credits. The net increase estimate, based on existing staff, is 3.38% for the coming fiscal year.

Similarly, the Support Staff Contract has movement on the insurance contribution as well as a 2.5% Cost of Living increase. The Support Staff also has step increases built in to the contract matrix. The net increase, also based on the existing staffing, is $85,173 in the first year, and is a 3-year contract. The percentage of net increase is 2.78%.

Approval of these contracts will cost taxpayers and estimated $0.40 in mil rate increase in Kingston and 0.51 in Newton. For a $300,000 house, that translates to $120 in Kingston for the first year and $153 in Newton.

Approval of these contracts is recommended by the School Board and the Budget Committee.

The education portion (about 70-80% of the total property tax) is increasing rather sharply this coming year, with or without the staff contracts. The default budget alone, due to an 8% increase in Special Education tuition as well as insurance increases, will wipe out the school tax reductions experienced this past year with the frozen budget spending of the prior year for a flat tax over the two year period. Passing the proposed budget will mean a tax increase.

When combined with the proposed contracts, the total increase is estimated to be $1.84 in the mil rate in Newton, and $1.64 in Kingston. With the default budget alone, the estimated tax increases will be $1.41 and $1.46, respectively, with the approval of these contracts. Net for Newton, which had no revaluation, for the two latest years, the increase for all to pass is $0.57 or $171.

The Superintendent has urged, if choices need to be made by individual taxpayers, he asks that the Contracts be approved, even if it means defeat of the proposed budget. He states that passage of the contracts is of supreme importance to the District.

 

2019 Deliberative Session

Posted on January 29, 2019 at 8:25 AM Comments comments (0)

Sanborn Regional School District Voting Begins

By Annie Collyer, for the Newton-Kingston Taxpayers Association

On Wednesday, February 6, at 7 PM (snow date Thursday, February 7), voters from the Sanborn Regional School District (Kingston and Newton) will gather in a town-hall-type meeting. This meeting, the Deliberative Session, is the first phase of voting for the School District budget and other warrant articles.

There are also Deliberative Sessions scheduled in each of Newton and Kingston, for voter review of the town budgets.

At the Deliberative Sessions, voters hear what proposals, called warrant articles, are being presented for approval. The voters present may amend the wording and the proposed expenditures, up or down, and keeping the original intent intact.

Once all warrants have been presented, deliberated on, and possibly amended, the warrant articles that come out of the Deliberative Sessions will go before the voters at the polls on Tuesday, March 12, in a two-step process.

This year, there are 11 School District warrant articles. The biggest is for the school budget for the coming fiscal year, 2019-2020. The current proposed budget, endorsed by the Budget Committee, the School Board and the Superintendent, is a 2.11% increase over the current budget.

In the current year, taxpayers in Newton received a 1.27 mil rate tax credit, greater than impact of the FY 20 default budget. If the proposed and other warrants pass, the total two-year property tax increase estimate for schools is $171 for a $300K valuation. Year-to-year comparisons are difficult for Kingston, with its recent property revaluation.

The default budget contains all but $269,000 of the proposed budget. The major differences are technology investment, books for elementary grades, and a tuition increase for the Seacoast School of Technology. The default budget includes mandated insurance cost increases and a mandated tuition increase of 8% for Special Education.

Over the past 5 years, since NKTA was founded, instead of rejecting budgets and staff contracts, the Administration and elected District leadership have worked successfully to reduce costs in the District. Staffing has been reduced to match enrollment declines.

The Sanborn District costs remain high, and school officials have identified possible ways to further reduce them. The impact financially, logistically and very importantly educationally is currently being analyzed for a portion of those savings areas. More work is being done.

However, until that work is completed, the District leadership says that they can find no further areas for savings for the 2019-20 year, without a negative impact to education.

Please plan to attend the Deliberative Session to hear about District Warrants and funding plans.

 

Sanborn Distict Budget

Posted on January 26, 2019 at 3:40 PM Comments comments (0)

Sanborn School District Proposed Budget

by Annie Collyer for the Newton-Kingston Taxpayers Association in Carriage Towne News

 

The proposed budget that will be presented to the voters on February 6 at 7 PM, for the Sanborn Regional School District Deliberative Session, is an increase of 2.11%. The total budget proposal is $35,887,933, which is 70-80% of your total property tax bill.

 

Almost half of the increase is Special Education costs, mandated by law, and insurance. The rest are required technology updates and optional but important investment in more books for early grades.

 

Over recent years, voters have insisted on some budget savings. To match falling enrollment, there have been staff reductions and other, to slow the rate of budget increases down to an average of 2%/year over 5 years. More staff reductions are not advisable with the current school configurations, the School Board, Budget Committee and Administration all agree.

 

Areas for future savings of almost 10% have been identified thanks to a study the School Board commissioned this past year.

 

Is it fair to ask taxpayers to pay more, when we know where we can save?

 

Analysis is underway to determine the costs and benefits of those potential areas for saving. Then decisions can be made responsibly.

 

The priorities in the District have begun to shift. Due to the efforts of NKTA to inform the voters about the overstaffing and the inadequacy of student outcomes, the new District Administration is taking a fiscally responsible position to address the reality of past overspending and inadequate student preparation for college and career.

Since its founding in 2015, NKTA has influenced an end to the year-end spending sprees past School Boards and Administrators took part in. Instead, conservative fiscal spending has meant returns to taxpayers ranging from $900K- $1.2 million with an extraordinary $1.5 Million returned to offset tax increases in 2018.

 

The budget is tighter now, and the estimated return for the coming year will be about half as much. As a result, estimated revenues other than taxes are lower, and taxes will increase to make up the difference.

 

It is important for voters and taxpayers to understand there are four forces at work on the amount of our taxes and future tax changes:

- mandated special education spending, with increases of 8% in the coming year

- lower state revenues due to lower enrollment

- increasing inflation rates in insurance and other areas

- needed infrastructure investment in technology and the like

 

These all create upward pressure on our taxes. And just maintain the status quo.

 

The proposed budget does not include new staff contracts that will also be on the ballot in March.

 

The voters present at the February 6 Deliberative Session will learn about the proposed budget and other warrants, with the opportunity to vote changes.

 

The Newton-Kingston Taxpayers Association is an educational non-profit corporation. To learn more and to join, go to www.NKTA.vpweb.com or our Facebook page.

 

 

Deliberative Session February 2019

Posted on January 26, 2019 at 3:40 PM Comments comments (0)

Sanborn Regional School District Voting Begins

By Annie Collyer, for the Newton-Kingston Taxpayers Association in the Carriage Towne News

On Wednesday, February 6, at 7 PM (snow date Thursday, February 7), voters from the Sanborn Regional School District (Kingston and Newton) will gather in a town-hall-type meeting. This meeting, the Deliberative Session, is the first phase of voting for the School District budget and other warrant articles.

There are also Deliberative Sessions scheduled in each of Newton and Kingston, for voter review of the town budgets.

At the Deliberative Sessions, voters hear what proposals, called warrant articles, are being presented for approval. The voters present may amend the wording and the proposed expenditures, up or down, and keeping the original intent intact.

Once all warrants have been presented, deliberated on, and possibly amended, the warrant articles that come out of the Deliberative Sessions will go before the voters at the polls on Tuesday, March 12, in a two-step process.

This year, there are 11 School District warrant articles. The biggest is for the school budget for the coming fiscal year, 2019-2020. The current proposed budget, endorsed by the Budget Committee, the School Board and the Superintendent, is a 2.11% increase over the current budget.

In the current year, taxpayers in Newton received a 1.27 mil rate tax credit, greater than impact of the FY 20 default budget. If the proposed and other warrants pass, the total two-year property tax increase estimate for schools is $171 for a $300K valuation. Year-to-year comparisons are difficult for Kingston, with its recent property revaluation.

The default budget contains all but $269,000 of the proposed budget. The major differences are technology investment, books for elementary grades, and a tuition increase for the Seacoast School of Technology. The default budget includes mandated insurance cost increases and a mandated tuition increase of 8% for Special Education.

Over the past 5 years, since NKTA was founded, instead of rejecting budgets and staff contracts, the Administration and elected District leadership have worked successfully to reduce costs in the District. Staffing has been reduced to match enrollment declines.

The Sanborn District costs remain high, and school officials have identified possible ways to further reduce them. The impact financially, logistically and very importantly educationally is currently being analyzed for a portion of those savings areas. More work is being done.

However, until that work is completed, the District leadership says that they can find no further areas for savings for the 2019-20 year, without a negative impact to education.

Please plan to attend the Deliberative Session to hear about District Warrants and funding plans.

NKTA is a NH Non-Profit that provides information for voters. www.NTKA.vpweb.com.

 

Minutes from Meeting October 19, 2017

Posted on October 20, 2017 at 8:45 PM Comments comments (1)

NKTA MEETING

October 19, 2017 7 PM

 

Welcome- Jim Baker, Chairman, gave an overview of the Sanborn School District, the new Superintendent, and the budget ideas he has been putting forward. He noted that the Superintendent is discussing a 2-year plan to hold spending level in the face of declining enrollments, and to work toward a teacher contract that can be passed next year. The Superintendent is also in favor of looking into long-term facilities planning and funding, and what to do about the Middle School. All of these are ideas NKTA has been putting forward since its founding 2.5 years ago.

Treasurer’s Report: Mr. Baker gave the status of the general fund and the scholarship fund in the absence of Jameson Fitzpatrick, Treasurer, who is traveling.

Newton Olde Home Day Report: It was well attended and the 50/50 raffle was successful in adding substantially to the Scholarship Fund.

Trunk or Treat – Kingston, Newton: Mary Cyr will decorate her trunk for Kingston, and bring candy for both. Annie Collyer will help. Planning for Newton Trunk or Treat is in process.

Kingston 325 and Kingston Days- Tammy Mahoney went to the September meeting and Annie Collyer went to the October one. NKTA will have a presence at both.

Outreach in Kingston: Videos, Beer Tasting. Rob Peterson is redoing NKTA generic videos of how voting works for local government and about the District. They will be on YouTube and on the Kingston and Newton cable stations, with hope that they will reach more and more voters to build voter turnout and involvement. Annie Collyer would like to revive the idea put forward and done in Newton a year ago, to have a beer tasting in Kingston. She suggested either Saddle Up Saloon or Rick’s for an event. Mary Cyr suggested allowing some time to pass for both to be open, and to plan something for February perhaps.

Budget Season- Towns and District- Jim Baker encouraged everyone to attend the Spending and Revenues proposal for the School District at the High School on November 1, 6 PM.

Carriage Towne News: Annie Collyer said that the CTN has had paper restrictions, so NKTA articles have not been published for two weeks. In speaking with Elisha, she learned that a change is coming next week, but does not know what that is.

Respectfully submitted,

Annie Collyer, Secretary

 

 


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