Derry and Londonderry residents will have their say at the polls Tuesday on some major spending issues as town and school elections are held.
An $81.9 million school budget threatens Derry with the highest property tax rate in the state. But lack of voter interest in the earlier deliberative session means there is now little voters can do to limit spending.
Just 83 voters attended the Feb. 2 school deliberative session — less than one-half of 1 percent of the town’s 17,700 registered voters. They voted to restore $800,000 that had been cut from the school budget, resulting in a 1.65 percent increase over the current year’s spending. That decision, according to state Sen. Jim Rausch, could raise the town’s tax rate to $33.45 per $1,000, which could give Derry the highest tax rate in New Hampshire.
If voters reject the $81,903,691 budget at Tuesday’s school district election, the higher default budget of $81,927,550 will kick in, costing residents even more on their tax rate. It was enough for Rausch to call for Derry to shift from a town to a city form of government, which would bring all school and municipal budgeting under one roof.
Perhaps the more important choice Derry residents will make Tuesday is in the election of School Board members. Previous boards have presented budgets to voters with per pupil spending rising 116 percent over the last decade, even as student enrollment has declined nearly 18 percent, according to Rausch.
Voters will choose two School Board members. Incumbents Brenda Willis and Ken Linehan are both seeking three-year terms on the board and are running against newcomers Jeri Murphy and Melanie Davis.
Derry voters will also elect town councilors and a town clerk.
On the council, there are two contested races. Incumbent Joel Olbricht is facing Mark Osborne for the councilor-at-large seat. Incumbent David Milz is running against Tom Cardon for the District 2 council seat. Al Dimmock is running unopposed for the open District 4 council position as Brian Chirichiello is not seeking another term.