Proposed School Budget, Warrant Articles Boost Budget 4 Percent

Londonderry School District officials are recommending a reduction in professional staff as part of their proposed budget.

The $67.5 million operating budget represents a 1.58 percent increase over last year’s budget and a tax rate of $12.59 per thousand, a 6 cent increase from the tax rate in FY15, Business Administrator Peter Curro reported in a presentation for the School Board and Budget Committee on Nov. 25.

The operating budget amount, which does not include several warrant articles, reflects increases in retirement, debt, and health insurance premiums.

Superintendent Nate Greenberg said the decision to reduce staff is an attempt to “right-size.”

“As enrollment has dropped, we have made an adjustment in staffing. As we get into discussions, we’ll not only be looking at the numbers of students, but also the hours of service required for these students when looking at special education,” he said. “We have attempted to develop programs that provide as good if not better services for special education students.”

By keeping special education services in the District rather than contracting with outside Districts and providers, the Town will see a savings of $61 billion between Fiscal Years 2006 and 2016, officials said.

Since 2006, the District has reduced its certified staff by 64.7 positions.

This year, the budget proposes a reduction of eight professional staff, which represents a reduction of 49.5 hours of elementary instruction assistants and a reduction of 18 hours of special education assistants.

“We have had declining enrollment over the years, however we are conscious of changes in population throughout our community,” Curro said. “There has been a change of homeownership in the south end of town, which we are monitoring closely with the Town. And we have had many families moving into developments in the north end of town that seem to have school aged children.”

Next year, class sizes in the elementary schools are expected to be right at or hover under 20 students per class, and the middle school “teams” in each grade are expected to remain at about the same size as last year.

Proposed additions to staff include a special education program facilitator, one professional to join the special education elementary friends program, and five girls’ coaches.

Total cost savings for personnel in the budget is $563,473.

Curro noted the District has seen a substantial increase in tuition revenue since FY14, with $996,700 projected for FY16 with the addition of high school students from Hooksett, which represents an offset of about 27 cents on the tax rate.

“Tuition students don’t cost us much. We don’t have to increase staff because of the students we take in. The money they’re bringing in is money that helps fund programs and helps with the tax rate,” Greenberg told the Board, noting the tuition revenue helps to offset the continued drop in state Adequacy Aid.

The District expects to receive $443,788 in Adequacy Aid for FY16. Since FY13, the total reduction in adequacy aid is projected to be $2.9 million.

Also potentially affecting the tax rate are a series of warrant articles with a total impact of $2.7 million. The warrant articles include a Maintenance Trust Fund for $400,000; two negotiated agreements (teachers and Allied Health) for $1.1 million and $85,321 respectively; an equipment capital reserve of $100,000, and architectural and engineering fees for an auditorium for $500,000.

“If we include the total value of the warrant articles, the proposed total budget would be $69.7 million, representing a 4.04 percent increase over FY15, according to Greenberg.

The proposed tax rate impact would be 40 cents.

What should not be lost is the significant continuing effort by the District in cost savings, avoidance and revenue generating initiatives for FY16 via special education, energy and IT (information teachnology), Greenberg wrote in the budget report. Those three areas generated a total cost savings of $10.9 million, an offset on the tax rate of $2.96.

“I think this is worth reporting, although we’re focusing in on dollars, what those dollars turn into in a return on investment,” Greenberg said. “Last year, 90 percent of the graduating class was accepted to two- and four-year colleges; our dropout rate is 0.36 percent; we fund 250 after-school activities each week and a multitude of co- and extra-curricular activities; and we’re maintaining almost 700,000 square feet of facilities and about 200 acres of grounds.

“We believe the proposed budget is true to the core tenets of our Strategic Plan, will move us in a positive direction towards our Career and College Ready Goals, is financially prudent given the present state of the economy and district revenues, allows for continued implementation of initiatives, and protects the investment in our schools,” he continued. “We’re looking forward to dialogue as we go through the budget process in December.”

In other business, the School Board accepted the resignations of Arthur Carter, high school custodian; Margaret Considine, special education assistant at North School; and Sarah Thompson, instructional assistant at Moose Hill Kindergarten.

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