ANDOVER — Meeting for the first time in many years to vote on their own school budget, residents last week added $20,000 to the proposal, which now totals nearly $1.5 million.

On Tuesday, June 30, voters will go to the polls for a “yes” or “no” validation vote on the budget. If approved, the town would get about $200,000 in state aid, according to town officials.

This school year, Andover, a member of SAD 44, paid just under $700,000 to the district.

The town formally leaves SAD 44 on July 1. The town voted last fall to leave the five-town school district, which includes Bethel, Greenwood, Newry and Woodstock.

Andover Superintendent Jack Turcotte told the 65 residents that more than $1.2 million of the budget includes fixed costs, over which the town has little control.

Residents voted to increase the first article on the warrant, Regular Instruction, from $871,130 to $891,130, to allow the Andover Elementary School to maintain three teachers in the multigrade classrooms. The proposed budget would have dropped it to two.

Turcotte said that only one incoming kindergarten student had been anticipated, and the pupil-to-teacher ratio would have been maintained at 14-to-1. The board proposed hiring an educational technician to assist with the K-2 students.

But Keith Smith, a former SAD 44 board member, said he did not believe removing a teacher would leave the school with the same learning environment that it has now. He moved to add $20,000 to maintain the third teacher instead of using an educational technician.

The amendment passed 39-26, and the amended article was approved.

The next article, to raise $104,500, prompted concern when Turcotte said that in the time since the warrant had been printed, he had learned that two of Andover’s 18 special education students might require out-of-system placement next year, at a significant additional cost.

He said the cost for each, if placed locally, could be about $20,000. But when asked about a worst-case scenario, he noted that 10 years ago as superintendent of another school system, he had to send a student to Massachusetts at a cost of $180,000 annually.

The status of the two students has not yet been finalized, Turcotte said. Residents could add more money to the article, or wait and see what happens, calling a special town meeting to raise more money, if needed.

He said there is currently about $10,000 in contingency money under the article.

After more discussion and questions, the article passed as proposed.

The other articles also passed as written, for a total budget of $1,49 million.

Selectman Keith Farrington said for the first tax year, taxpayers would pay at a rate split between the current SAD 44 share and the new Andover school unit rate, because the town and school fiscal years are six months off from each other.

The current tax rate is $15.60 per one thousand dollars of assessed property value, according to town officials. Farrington said his estimate, based on current numbers, shows the first year that would rise to approximately $18.70 assuming the municipal side of overall town costs remain stable, and the following year, when a full Andover school budget kicks in, to about $23. But the numbers will likely change due to other factors, he said.

Polls will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Town Hall, according to town officials.

Residents will also vote Tuesday on whether, beginning next year, they wish to do away with the second validation vote on school budgets for three years.


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