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Deerfield calls for smaller Frontier budget

— Conway has found a partner in Deerfield in its call for a smaller Frontier Regional School budget.

After a four-hour budget meeting last Tuesday, Deerfield Select Board members unanimously agreed to team up with their neighbors in Conway to demand the Frontier Regional School District not increase its budget by more than 3 percent.

“We can’t cut everything in town for a school with declining enrollment and an unquestioned budget,” said Selectman Elizabeth Clarke. “I’d like to stop saying we can’t affect the budget and start trying to affect the budget.”

The town will lobby its Frontier partners — Whately, Sunderland and Conway — to come to a consensus on how to deal with the school budget. A day earlier, the Conway Finance Committee voted to not recommend the school budget request in light of Proposition 2½ tax caps and slow growth in the property tax base. The Finance Committee also wrote a letter to Superintendent Regina Nash requesting the school district keep its overall operational budget increase to 2.5 percent.

The Deerfield Selectmen and Finance Committee would write its own letter to the school district with the same demands.

If the school district meets the request, the two towns would fund the budget no matter how the town assessments are split.

“What do you want to cut? The library, the police department, fire department, ambulance, to have Frontier blow through all the available tax money?” asked Clarke.

The towns are asking the school district to cut its budget increase requests in half.

The proposed school budget is $9,545,088, an increase of $447,832, or 4.92 percent, from the current school year. The School Committee is asking the towns to pay 6.65 percent more than they did last year toward the total.

Deerfield would pay 9.32 percent more than the current year. Conway would pay 16.3 percent more. Sunderland would pay 1.06 percent more. Whately, on the other hand, would see a percentage decrease of 1 percent.

Deerfield would pay $3,260,522. Conway would pay $1,061,388. Sunderland would provide $1,737,316 and Whately would give $925,545.

The Frontier School Committee has made attempts to decrease its budget by taking $40,000 of its surplus to lower the town assessments.

Superintendent Regina Nash said the budget only includes “what is necessary to run a good educational program. We don’t have extra in the budget.” Nash attributed the increasing budget to costs beyond the school’s control, including utilities, salaries, insurance, and special education costs. The school district also needs to keep up with new initiatives, such as Common Core standards, the new educator evaluator system and technology.

If the Frontier budget request does not get three towns’ support, the school district is obligated to return with another budget at a special town meeting.

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