674 ballots were cast at the polls this past Tuesday. This represents a dismal 3.8% of the district’s 17,898 registered voters. Last year 1,114 ballots were cast (6.2%). It should be noted that the Keene School District employs approximately 671 individuals.
As usual, voters were given only two options as far as the operating budget was concerned. Both were increases from the previous year. The smaller increase was passed. All other warrants which involved increases in yearly operating expenses were passed overwhelmingly. The average results for all of the school sponsored warrants were 500 for/160 against.
As far as the petitioned warrant articles (3 of which were amended at the deliberative session), the tax cap of 10% failed 298 to 334. The reduction of $500 per student failed 294/349. The withdrawal from SAU29 failed 168/467.
It’s very clear to me that the taxpayers of Keene are being held hostage by a very small percentage of the overall population. In this case I believe a large portion of them are involved directly within the school system. In my four years in Keene, I have encountered an overwhelming majority of keene residents who are unhappy with the out-of-control spending from both city and school and the subsequent tax rate, but for some reason they can’t be bothered to make it out to the polls for 30 minutes out of their day. I won’t lie to you, it is an extremely discouraging process. I can understand completely why so many have given up entirely. Anyways, stand by for next year. I’ll be at it again.
Some of last Saturday’s attendants at the school deliberative session are actually concerned with the Bigger Picture: the future health of the community. Sure, a good education is important, but at what cost?
In NH, as the law stands currently, a Warrant Articles can be amended to pretty much anything you want as long as the subject matter isn’t changed. New legislation that would protect the “intent” of all future warrants was introduced this year, but was ultimately killed on the House floor, 194-100. Without that protection, this is the sort of nonsense that can take place at our Town Hall meetings.
Many have voiced concerns over the extremely poor turnout and lack of participation in city and school politics over the years. The bureaucrats are clueless as to why. Ian nails it.
Around 80 registered voters showed up to last Saturday’s 4 hour Deliberative session, around 25 fewer than last year. Note this is .47% of Keene’s 17,000 registered voters. As usual, the bulk of the room was made up of school board members, school administrators and teachers.
Once again, local lawyer and resident busybody Ted Parent was there ready to gut my petitioned warrant articles with his own prepared amendments. I plead with the voters in the room to leave the articles untouched in their original wording and allow the voters in March to decide on them. Each amendment would require a secret vote that would take 15-20 minutes to administer. From the reaction in the room, I was led to believe that the majority were in favor of this motion. However, Parent wasn’t having any part of it.
My first Warrant to enact a budget cap of .5% was amended to 10%. 65 in favor, 25 against. Two more attempts were made to amend it to 2% and then 4.9%. Both failed.
My second article to reduce student tuition by $500 per student until tuition matched the state average was amended to “Form a committee to study whether the district should make the reductions.” Surprisingly, this only lost by 1 vote: 41 in favor, 40 against.
Parent then made an attempt to amend my “Cease participation in the Common Core program” article by instead forming a committee to study the concept. This motion failed 60 to 21. School board member Susan Hay made her own motion to amend the article to read “Shall the school district continue to be aligned with and compliant with the state education standards.” This passed 66 to 10. It will be interesting to see how the voters react to this one in March.
Parent also made an absurd attempt to amend my fourth article “to form a committee to study the feasibility of withdrawal from the bloated SAU29” to “form a committee to form a committee.” It failed 56 to 19.
In the end, one warrant survived. Three were amended—one of which I can live with and one that only lost by a hair. Comparing those results and voter turnout to previous years, I can definitely say that there is change in the winds. Stay tuned for the ballot results in March.
The proposal on the table (HB 1612) at last week’s state house education committee was to lower the age for compulsory schooling to 17 from 18. I spoke in favor of the proposal, which doesn’t go far enough. Sadly, NH does not offer any form of emancipation to young people under eighteen.
After almost four years of railing against the wasteful spending going on here in the city of Keene, you might be under the assumption that this place is a lost cause and subsequently choose to settle elsewhere. Don’t. Keene is a great place with a lot of good people and a lot of potential. The truth is this sort of nonsense is going on across the country and in a lot of places it is much worse. The key difference here is the strong liberty community that has chosen to keep tabs on the powers that be and hold them accountable for their misguided decisions. We’ve cleared our eyes of the veil of apathy to see the truth for what it is.
To the wise old city bureaucrats and school officials: this may be your legacy, but it’s my inheritance. I WILL NOT stand by and watch while you squander it. You may get your way this year, but I’m not going to make it easy for you.
As some of you may well be aware, the Keene School District plans to cut 36.7 full-time positions, close an elementary school, and has projected a loss in enrollment of around 80 students. And yet, as you probably already expected, the budget will still be going up.
The school district has presented us with a proposed operating budget of $64.98 million, an increase of $181,394 from the previous year. Should that article fail, the default budget of $65.66 million will kick in. So, lose/lose. But here’s the real kicker: Due to less incoming revenue in the form of state tuition and previous-year surplus, the actual impact on the Keene taxpayer will be an additional $1.7 million increase. This will amount to a 5.31 percent increase on the school portion of your property tax.
These yearly increases in both school and city spending are unacceptable and ultimately unsustainable. If the school district were a private business it would have gone belly-up years ago due to its mismanagement of funds. But unlike the private sector, the public school system doesn’t need to sell you a good product to stay in business. They’ll get your money regardless of the quality and affordability of service they provide us. Or else they’ll take your house.
In an attempt to reign in this out-of-control spending, I have introduced three warrant articles that will help school board members and administrators with their future budget preparation. They include a budget cap of .5 percent, a reduction of $500 per student per year until the student tuition matches the state average, and the formation of a committee to study the feasibility of withdrawal from SAU 29. I’ve also included a fourth article to cease participation in the one-size-fits-all common core program. Sadly, all four warrants will undoubtedly be amended in such a way as to remove their original intent at the deliberative session this Saturday.
If there is one thing the school and its supporters excel at, it is removing any alternative options from the ballot.
For the past four years now I have challenged the local school district here in Keene to reign in their out-of-control spending with no real success. Mind you, this is a huge, $65 million dollar a year welfare machine that many of the residents of Keene have grown completely dependent upon; sadly, a conundrum shared widely throughout the country.
This year I’ve introduced three petitioned warrant articles, or ballot initiatives, that would reduce school spending and one article that would direct the district to opt out of Common Core. In previous years my warrants have always been amended completely ineffective at the first Deliberative session made up primarily of teachers and school admins who oppose any types of cuts. I expect no difference this time around. Convincing people to come out early on a Saturday morning to sit through a long drawn out meeting is much more difficult than collecting their signatures. However, judging by the turnout of disgruntled residents at the first informational meeting this past Tuesday and the fact that The Keene Sentinel chose to include the story on the front page the next day, leads me to believe that more apathetic voters are beginning to wake up. Here is the full Sentinel article: