Fellow Taxpayer,

Below are two articles for the Carriage Towne News — one for last week, one being published next week.

Please know that we are publishing articles on the coming budgets and votes, both at Deliberative Sessions for school and towns in February, and at the polling booths in March.

Our goal is to inform the public about warrants and local choices this budget season, with a concentration on the District budget and other warrants that comprise 70-80% of our local property taxes.

If you have any questions about how our local voting works, or want more information, please be in touch. We’re happy to help.

Please share with your friends, and be sure to take part in the voting this February (in person) and March (Ballot booths or absentee).

Sanborn School District Proposed Budget
by Annie Collyer for the Newton-Kingston Taxpayers Association

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.

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.

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