The Town of Hampton formally threw its support behind Washington County Head Start.
The town board unanimously endorsed a request by the beleaguered organization to include the community on a letter urging Congress to reconsider spending cuts that have left the program in dire straits.
The Washington County Head Start program has seen a $201,371 reduction—more than 5 percent of its total budget—in federal funding because of the sequester.
The reductions have forced administrators to suspend two six-week summer Head Start programs, in Cambridge and Hudson Falls, eliminate staff, subject employees to mandatory work-week reductions, eliminate vehicle purchases, and shorten school-year programs by two weeks.
Claire Murphy, head of the Washington County Head Start program, the organization that oversees the local program, said last month the cancellation of the summer program directly affects 72 children who were previously enrolled in the program and will not receive those services.
Murphy said the cuts were necessary to preserve other year-long programs Head Start offers.
Further cuts may have to be made next year if lawmakers can’t broker a deal on the federal budget.
The local Head Start program serves a total of 420 economically-disadvantaged children in Washington County. The program provides comprehensive education, health, nutrition, and parent involvement services.
“It’s a real eye opener how much they do,” Supervisor Dave O’Brien said.
Studies have shown that those services correlate with greater educational success later in life, decrease the likelihood of a person committing crime and even increase life expectancy.
O’Brien said the town’s attorney, Matt Fuller, has sent a letter to Hampton Volunteer Fire Company attorney Bradley Pinsky, but has yet to receive a response.
Last month, Pinsky sent the town a letter that included two separate contract proposals, each of which amounts to $132,000 over a three year period.
The town and its fire department are at odds over the department’s funding and have been unable to reach a compromise.
The two sides have not sat down to discuss the contract in more than two months and the only correspondence has been the letters sent by each side’s attorneys.
The current contract, which provides the department with $25,500, can remain in effect for up to five years unless one side terminates the agreement in writing by Aug. 20. If that happens, the two sides would have until Dec. 31 to hammer out a new deal.
The town board ratified a new six-year agreement with assessor Mary Ellen Hill-Pierce.
Pierce’s term, like that of every assessor in Washington County, was set to expire on Sept. 30.
The new contract is effective beginning Oct. 1 and Pierce will receive a salary of $11,000 a year, the same rate she has been paid for the past six years.
“Her reputation is good and she’s done a very good for Hampton,” O’Brien said.
The next meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 17.