Croydon sets dates for school budget hearing, votes again after funding halved on day of town meeting

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Residents outraged after the 2022-23 school budget was more than halved at town hall earlier this month will have the option to restore the money after the school board scheduled a Tuesday another vote on the budget at 9 a.m. on May 7.

The new vote was prompted by a petition calling for the reinstatement of the $1.7 million budget proposal the school board presented to voters at the March 12 town hall.

A public hearing will be held at 6:30 p.m. on April 8 at City Hall before the vote.

The May 7 meeting will be held in the dining hall at YMCA Camp Coniston, which was chosen because it can accommodate a large crowd.

For the ballot to be binding, at least 50% of the city’s 565 registered voters must be present. The camp cafeteria was advertised as one of the only facilities in town large enough to accommodate a group of this size.

If enough voters show up, a vote will be held to approve the $1,705,496 budget proposed to voters at the town hall, where a floor amendment reduced it to $800,000. Only about thirty voters were present.

More residents showed up for the school board meeting on Tuesday night, when voting dates were set and Camp Coniston was selected for a location after other proposals were shot down – the fire station is not not big enough and the baseball field near the fire station would likely be ‘a swamp’ in early May. Splitting the vote in two places would violate assembly laws, town business manager Beth Bierwirth told attendees. .

Lorraine Newcomb, registrar at Camp Coniston, suggested the camp dining hall.

When Newcomb said the camp director had approved, a great cheer erupted.

In the meantime, the school board has instructed school staff to reduce the original budget line items by the same percentage in all areas so that it totals $800,000. The school district is due to file with the state this week a 2022-23 budget plan consistent with the amount approved at the city meeting.

After several contentious meetings in the weeks following the town meeting, Tuesday night’s meeting was mostly quiet. But some in the crowd of about 50 grew agitated during the public comment period, when residents accused school board members of violating state open meeting laws.

Copies of emails between Croydon council members and New Hampshire Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut released at Tuesday’s meeting said council members Jody Underwood and Aaron McKeon and Nate Green, who sat at the school board until this month, met as a group at the Ministry of Education. without alerting voters.

Underwood admitted board members violated the Open Meetings Act, but she said it was unintentional and not an effort to hide anything .

“We were getting information from him,” Underwood said. “We weren’t deliberating.”

A member of the public asked board member Kevin Morris, who was elected to the board at the town hall, if he was aware of his minister’s Department of Education meeting. colleague, and he replied that he “didn’t know”.

Underwood quickly turned to Morris.

“We’ve shared information with you, I’m pretty sure,” Underwood said.

Several times during the meeting, residents called for the resignation of Underwood, whose own husband, Ian Underwood, moved the motion to cut the school’s budget on the day of the town meeting.

Kim McKinney had earlier asked Jody Underwood which was more important, low taxes or raising children.

“My top priority is educating children,” Underwood replied, adding, “I think choice is the best education.”

But McKinney wasn’t buying it.

“Obviously you don’t have our children’s best interests in mind,” McKinney said. “I would like to formally request that you resign from your position.”

“Second!” a voice sounded from the back of the room, which burst into cheers.

“Thank you for your comment,” Underwood said.

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