Letter/Opinion left out of 3/1/22 paper:
Sunapee students and taxpayers deserved better from this school board
To the Editor and Sunapee voters:
These are the facts that the Sunapee voters need to understand but will not find them on the school website or the campaign to support Sunapee schools. Fact: in 1999 the Sunapee student population was almost 600 students with no pre-K. Fact: in 2021 the Sunapee student enrollment was 400 including pre-K Fact: the school budget in 2009 was $9.8 million with 475 students. Fact: the school budget in 2022 is $13.2 million with only 400 students. Fact: the registered voters in 2009 was 2,696. Fact: the registered voters in 2021 was 3,319.
The school board wants to tell you that the numbers are not declining and that is not the truth, but the truth is we are down 75 students since 2009 and our budget has grown by $ 3.2 million with 75 less students. We had 623 more registered voters in 2021 than we had in 2009 but our school enrollment does not show an increase but a decrease in enrollment.
Fact: in 2020 this school board told the voters spending $11 million dollars renovating a 95-year-old building was not a wise investment but building a 52,000-sf new elementary school and having one campus was the best plan. They then added sports fields and track for a total of $ 25.6 million warrants and would not have separate warrants one for the school and one for the fields and track as myself and others asked them to write. They also told us that the high school boilers were at the end of their life and needed to be replaced for an estimated cost of $2 million.
Fact: in 2020 article 8 asked the voters if the $25.6 million warrant failed should a citizens advisory committee be formed to investigate other options than building a new elementary school. The taxpayers spoke loud and clear with 800 yes votes for this article. It was non-binding so the school board would not have to agree to any recommendations the committee came up with.
Fact: 2021 I chaired the citizens advisory committee, and we investigated another plan to build an addition at the middle high school for grades 9-12 and make it a one campus since there is enough room for grades k-8 at the present middle high school. The estimated cost for the addition was $5-8 million dollars. This was less than the $11 million renovation project but it needed to be investigated more but the school board did not want to investigate more and moved ahead with their $11 million dollar renovation project to the elementary school. The same $11 million that they told us was not a wise investment in 2020.
Fact: 2021 the school board told the voters that they were third in line to receive 30% state aid or $3 million dollars toward the project. I recommended to them to write a warrant article asking the voters if they would support the renovation project if we received the 30% or $3 million from the state and if we did not receive the money the project would not move ahead.
This warrant article has been written by other towns basically giving the taxpayers a guaranteed price or the project does not move forward but this school board would not write the warrant that way.
Fact: 2022 the school board is asking the taxpayers to support the same project as last year spending almost $11 million dollars with no chance of getting any state aid. This is the same $11 million dollars that in 2020 they told the voters spending this on a 95-year-old building was not a wise investment.
Fact: the school board used to allow the citizens that showed up to the school board meeting three minutes at the beginning of the meeting and three minutes at the end of the meeting under public comments not to ask questions but only to make comments. They now only allow you to make comments at the beginning of the meeting but only allow four minutes. Maybe this is another reason their proposals keep getting voted down.
Fact: there is another school in Sunapee, Mt. Royal Academy, it offers pre-K-12 grade and was recognized as a school of excellence and has 200 students with a waiting list for some grades. The tuition costs are: Pre-K three half days $2,500, five half days $4,000, five full days $6,000. The elementary school children's tuition is $7,000, junior high tuition is $7,500 and high school tuition is $9,250. The school's enrollment is not declining but in fact is increasing.
It's time for a change on this school board and I support John Augustine and his one zero unite plan. The taxpayers and students deserve better from the school board and John will work for the students and taxpayers and he does not have any conflicts of interest because he does not have any family members that are employed by the SAU. The same cannot be said for the current school board as two members have spouses that are employed as teachers at the schools.
Former chairman of the citizens advisory committee