DerryNews.com, Derry, New Hampshire

December 20, 2012

Public weighs in on Londonderry town budget

Few attend town budget hearing

By Julie Huss
jhuss@derrynews.com

---- — LONDONDERRY — Residents talked safety Monday night, weighing in on ways to keep the town’s schools more secure following last week’s shooting in Newtown, Conn.

At a town budget hearing, people spoke about a proposed warrant article that would put another school resource officer in place at a cost of $101,000.

Right now, the district has one officer for its six schools.

Some say adding another officer is needed; more may be better.

The school district had up to four officers in past years. Budgetary constraints reduced that number to one.

Voters will now consider bringing back one officer as part of the proposed budget for next year.

Following last Friday’s shooting, town officials said everyone quickly jumped into action on the local front.

Police went to all district schools; officials met with school administration and personnel to make sure the buildings were secure.

Acting town manager and police Chief Bill Hart said Londonderry is doing everything right to keep schools safe.

Adding another school resource officer is an easy way to keep security tight, he said.

“Sadly, it is a reaction to the tragedy in Newtown,” Hart said. “We can do more with regard to security and we can do more in providing a police department that is visible in the schools.”

School superintendent Nate Greenberg thanked everyone who took the rapid response last response.

Right now, schools are very safe, officials said.

“We have cameras in every school, we met with administration and staff to review plans, and we are working with fire and police,” Greenberg said. “A number of things are in place. I firmly believe our kids are safe in our district.”

Greenberg said plans are reviewed every year to keep security measures updated.

Resident Dan Bouchard said adding another school resource officer is needed, maybe adding two would be better.

“I would really like you guys to look at that,” Bouchard told officials.

Hart said residents can amend and vote to make changes to warrant articles, including adding an additional school resource officer.

“(We are asking for) $101,000 for a school resource officer to serve the children, teachers, staff and community,” he said. “We won’t go down to less than two. I will fulfill the wishes of this community to ensure we will have officers in these schools.”

Hart said the town needs to rebuild the process to add more police presence in schools.

Resident Tony Palma has four children in the Londonderry school district. He said he would like to see the town increase the number of school resource officers.

“We need to get back up to four,” Palma said. “I don’t think anyone would mind higher taxes.”

In addition to the school resource officer, voters will consider warrant articles calling for the town to put $710,000 in a capital reserve fund already established to purchase town vehicles, with $310,000 coming from taxes and the remainder from a fund balance amount.

Other articles deal with collective bargaining agreements between the town and its staff.

Hart said the goal is to keep the proposed budget within $110,000 of the default amount.

The next public budget meeting is Jan. 14, followed by an adoption of budget and final vote by the Town Council. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. at the Moose Hill Council Chambers at the town office building.

Residents were able to weigh in on Londonderry's proposed $27.5 million town budget for next year, which includes adding another school resource officer.