Proposed School District Budget is Below Default

Superintendent of Schools Nathan Greenberg and School District Business Administrator Peter Curro have presented their proposed General Fund budget, as well as tax impacts of proposed warrant articles. The budget shows an increase of .073 percent over the current year, as well as staff reductions.

Greenberg said that as they developed the FY15 budget request, “predicated on our rolling five year Strategic Plan and our adopted Career and College Ready Goal for 2017,” their key themes were “prudent progress, adjustment, continued reorganization, continued solidification of instruction and management initiatives, preservation of core programs and co/extra-curricular activities, continuation of cost avoidance/ savings, generating tuition revenue, and most of all, maintaining and supporting a high level of services to our students, parents and community.”
Greenberg told the board at its Tuesday, Nov. 26 meeting, said that in creating the budget, the district had to keep in mind downshifting of costs from the state.
“The continued drop in Adequacy Aid for FY15 of $583,884 and since FY13, the total reduction in adequacy is projected to be $2,341,033,” he said. “To offset the continued drop in revenue, we are and have pursued an aggressive initiative to generate tuition revenue. This year, FY14, we were able to generate $621,500, a $400,000 increase over FY13, and we have estimated conservatively tuition revenue of $984,300 for FY15 with the possibility of approximately $150,000 in additional tuitions pending a final Memorandum of Understanding agreement with Hooksett.”
Greenberg said that as in past years, they met with the administrative team and reduced their original requests to arrive at the proposed General Fund budget of $66,540,975, a $480,808 increase or 0.73 percent over the FY14 budget and $169,110 below the default budget.
The tax rate impact (increase) of the General Fund budget is 13 cents.
“What should also not be lost is the significant continuing effort by the District in cost savings/ avoidance initiatives for FY15, particularly relating to special education, energy and information technology (IT) to the tune of $7,135,434, not including staff reductions of $413,528 which would bring the total to $7,548,962,” Greenberg said.
Staff Cuts
Greenberg noted the need for staff reductions in his proposed budget.
“Due to enrollment trends and the continued impact of downshifting of costs and revenue reduction, a thorough review of staffing and program needs was conducted again this year,” he wrote in his budget recommendation. “Our goal was to maintain educationally viable class sizes and continue to provide program options and services at all levels. We believe the goals will be achieved through the continued implementation of the reorganization of duties/responsibilities and the contraction of staffing.”
Staffing reductions are:
• District Wide, two FTE (Full Time Equivalents), based on end of year enrollment and course selections; and Middle School, 3.4 FTEs: one English teacher, one Social Studies teacher, .5 Foreign Language teacher, .5 Music teacher, .4 Physical Education teacher.
Also at the middle school was one FTE Family Consumer Science teacher. That position was eliminated last spring, and an in-house computer teacher was used to support a Creative Computing and Media class, as well as to cover the nutrition unit previously taught with the seventh grade health curriculum.
Those cuts equal a total of 6.4 certified positions and a net savings of $413,528.
No cuts are planned at the elementary or high school level.
“It is important to note that, including the FY15 recommendations, since FY06 the net reduction in certified staff (administrators/teachers) totals 66.9 FTEs or one position for every 17 student drop in enrollment,” he wrote. “During the same period, we have reduced non-certified positions (assistants, clerical) a net total of 518.85 hours per day or the equivalent of one FTE for every 13 student drop in enrollment. The total net reduction of staff since FY06 equals 153.4 FTEs, a 20 percent reduction in staffing. Looked at another way, (that’s) the reduction of one FTE for every seven student drop in enrollment.”
Warrant Articles
In addition to the General Fund budget, the district is recommending warrant articles with a total impact of $881,879. That includes the first interest payment on a proposed facilities bond.
Warrant articles are:
• A Maintenance Trust Fund for $500,000.
• Two negotiated agreements with custodial and support staff for $110,309 and $56,570 respectively.
• An equipment capital reserve of $150,000.
• And what Greenberg said is a “strongly recommended facilities bond for $4 million, which has an impact FY15 $65,000 interest payment.”
Greenberg said that if the total value of the warrant articles were included, the proposed total budget would be $67,422,854, representing a $553,787 or 0.83 percent increase over FY 14. He said that the proposed tax rate impact would be 22 cents.
“We believe the proposed budget for FY15 is true to the core tenants of our Strategic Plan; will move us in a positive direction towards our Career and College Ready Goal; 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,” Greenberg said. “We have not been Pollyanna-ish in our outlook, we recognize that to accomplish what we and the community expect of our schools, we have to remain flexible, plan ahead and maximize the use of our resources. However, the quality of the administration, faculty and staff, along with the guidance of the School Board and the continued support of the community, will enable us to continue to fulfill our motto: ‘Giving Wings to Children’s Dreams.’”
Curro said total revenues are dropping from the current year, FY 14 to the proposed FY 15 year, most of that at the state level, with a drop in the adequacy grant from the actual 2013-2014 amount of $14,646,530 to a proposed 2014 -2015 amount of $12,305,497.
“The state adequacy grant amount is only an estimate,” Curro said. “Not only did (the state) change the formula, but they changed the method, so that we won’t know what the adequacy numbers are until we either set the tax rate next year or very closely after the tax rate.”
Local revenues will go up a little due to tuition revenue from Hooksett students, he said.
“There is no capital lease as we have had in the past years, however in the buildings and grounds budget, you will see a payment for lease purchase of two vehicles,” he said. “We’re going to, if the board approves, purchase a van, a plow or a truck and then finance over three years.”
Curro said other equipment needs, instead of being in a capital lease, will be in the equipment capital reserve fund that was started last year and approved by the voters.
“The district still continues to reap the benefits of the Wellness Program,” he said. “Our health rates are much lower than the national or New Hampshire trend.” Curro said the district had received revenue from Workers Compensation, which was level funded.
Regarding Equalized Valuation by Pupil, the district has been below the median starting in 2001.
“What that means is our tax base works harder than the state average, including Bedford, Concord, Derry, Dover, Hudson and Keene,” he said. “In 1998 the town was at $28.63 tax rate in local dollars for education with the state paying nothing, and in the past years we haven’t been quite that close. State adequacy grants are going the wrong way for us (downward) in the last few years.”
Curro said that unless things change, the five warrant articles noted above will be what the district seeks this year.
Curro said that to date there has been no request from anyone regarding a special article. “Normally by this time we hear rumblings of someone wishing to put a special article for some interest that they have,” he said.
Board member Steve Young asked where Curro gets figures for valuation of new construction and Curro said they came from the assessor’s office. They include both residential and Industrial/Commercial developments but not a revaluation.
Young asked, with the district cutting staff, why the budget did not go down.
Greenberg responded that even with reducing staff, the remaining staff salaries have gone up with their longer length of service, and cost of benefits and utilities have both increased as well.
Young asked whether the budget would have been less without state downshifting. Greenberg said it would be the same but with increased revenue.

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