The School Board voted unanimously to move all eight proposed warrant articles to the District’s fiscal year 2017 Warrant, including its amended $70.7 million operating budget.
The Board’s proposed budget represents a nearly $200,000 reduction from the Superintendent’s proposed budget and is $154,070 below the default budget. The Board’s proposed budget has an estimated tax impact of $13.60 per thousand.
To achieve the Board’s requested $200,000 cut, Superintendent Nate Greenberg and Business Administrator Peter Curro recommended eliminating from the budget Information Technology (IT) infrastructure at a cost of $161,169, and IT equipment at a cost of $49,250.
Greenberg said the District plans to reorganize IT staff, wait another year to fill the vacant IT director position and outsource major parts of the website to accommodate the reduction.
“I think we’ll be in good shape,” he said, noting Assistant Superintendent Scott Laliberte has been involved with the launch of the District’s iReady program and other IT initiatives.
With substantial network and wireless upgrades proposed under Warrant Article 6, the Board also considered adding to the operational budget the $300,000 allocation for what are described as vital upgrades.
Thanking the Board for bringing forward a budget below the default, Middle School Case Manager Mary Soares said her concern with proposing the wireless infrastructure upgrades as a warrant article is that if the article doesn’t pass, the District’s hands are tied with regard to funding the project in FY17.
“We have a lot of great tools at the middle school. I work with students who use the iPads every day and we need to have the additional capability the new wiring will do for us. It’s very frustrating when you have a classroom of 30 students who need to do something with their iPads and they can’t,” she said. “I would really love to see it happen next year.”
But Curro recommended that the Board present the project to the taxpayers as a warrant article, explaining the addition would push the proposed budget over the default.
When a parent asked how the reorganization of IT staff and budget cuts to the Department will affect the District’s ability to implement the network infrastructure and wireless improvement and expansion, should Article 6 pass, Greenberg said the District “is very comfortable with existing IT staff’s ability to assist with implementation of the warrant article to solve a number of our issues with connectivity in some of the schools.”
“It’s a decision we have to make regarding which way it will be best sold, in the absence of cutting the proposed budget we have by $300,000 more to stay under default. If we put the $300,000 in, my concern would be people would take a look at the two numbers and vote for the lower number, which would put us in the same position as we would be if the article fails,” Curro said.
“I think this is integral to the education of the children, and it’s the way the world is going, but with that being said, I agree with the Superintendent – if we increase the budget over default, a lot of people will go for the smaller number,” board member Dan Lekas said, noting if the funding is added to the budget in deliberative session, there’s no guarantee the money would be spent on the upgrades.
“I’m not naïve enough to think there aren’t ways to strategize, but it’s really unfortunate things can’t be simple where we say we need this for the kids, and this is why,” board member Leitha Reilly said. “That we have to hedge bets here and strategize there, frankly I find it pathetic. It makes us no better than the politicians, but this is the system within which we operate.”
In addition to reducing the general operating budget, Curro reported the District had to reduce the fund balance designated to offset the tax rate in the proposed FY17 budget from $500,000 to $200,000 due to unanticipated expenses related to Special Education tuition.
The tax rate impact for the general fund balance is an increase of $.86 cents.
The FY17 Warrant the Board voted to move to the District’s Feb. 5 Deliberative Session is as follows:
• Article 1: To choose to serve as School District Officers one School Board member (three-year term), one District Clerk, one District Treasurer and one District Moderator.
• Article 2: To raise and appropriate as an operating budget for the FY2016-2017 school year, not including appropriations by special warrant articles, the School Board’s amended budget of $70,778,003 (estimated tax impact is $13.60) or the Default Budget of $70,932,073 (estimated tax impact is $13.65).
The School Board and Budget Committee recommend Article 2 with a 5-0 vote.
• Article 3: To accept and receive federal grants and other such funds to support the school lunch program and federal projects; further to raise and appropriate such funds in a special revenue fund – school lunch program, $1,546,577; and federal projects, $1,389,000; for an estimated total appropriation of $2,935,577. The funds are self-supporting through local, state or federal revenue sources. There is no tax impact.
The School Board and Budget Committee recommend Article 3 with a 5-0 vote.
• Article 4 (Special Article): To raise and appropriate $500,000 for the School Buildings Maintenance Expendable Trust Fund, previously established and approved at the March 1995 School District Meeting. The funds would be used for major one-time capital costs for District facilities, including a digital camera upgrade for video security at a cost of $30,000; an emergency generator at a cost of $65,000; field improvements at a cost of $160,000; and LED lighting retrofits at a cost of $40,000. The tax impact is $.14 cents.
The School Board and Budget Committee recommend Article 4 with a 5-0 vote.
• Article 5 (Special Article): To raise and appropriate $100,000 for the School District Equipment Capital Reserve Fund, established in 2013 to provide funds to procure essential small equipment for classrooms, offices, technology and buildings and grounds. The sum is to come from the June 30, 2016 fund balance available for transfer on July 1, 2016. There is no tax impact.
The School Board and Budget Committee recommend Article 5 with a 5-0 vote.
• Article 6: To raise and appropriate $300,000 to fund the necessary costs to improve the School District’s network infrastructure including wireless capabilities to address the curriculum and administrative needs of the School District. The appropriation would be non-lapsing until all necessary infrastructure improvements are completed or by June 2020, whichever is sooner. The estimated tax impact is $.08 cents.
The School Board and Budget Committee recommend Article 6 with a 5-0 vote.
• Article 7: To amend the Londonderry School District Charter to remove the quorum requirement for amendments at the School District Meeting by amending relevant sections of the Charter.
The total local education tax rate if the Board’s proposed FY17 Operating Budget and all Warrant Articles pass is $13.82. For a $300,000 home, that means a local education property tax bill of $4,146.
Combined with the State education property tax rate of $2.20, the total education property tax bill for a home valued at $300,000 would be $4,806.