School Board OKs Level Tax Rate Budget Proposal

LONDONDERRY – The Londonderry School Board approved a level tax rate budget of $66,240,583 for the coming fiscal year, a figure that is lower than the previously proposed budget of $66,540,975.

The vote came at the Thursday, Jan. 9 School Board meeting.

Superintendent Nathan Greenberg said at the previous meeting that board member John Laferriere had asked to see the figures for a 5 cent reduction to the tax rate, a 10 cent reduction and a 13 cent reduction, which would bring the level rate budget.

“The budget as it was proposed was $66,540,975, which represented a .73 percent increase in appropriation from the previous year,” Greenberg explained. “The default budget was $66,710,085. The board at the last meeting asked us to come in with a list of items to reduce the budget tax rate at three different levels.”

Greenberg said revenue could be used to reduce the tax rate without having to touch appropriations.

He cited the board’s action Jan. 7 (see related story page 6) to approve a modification of the MOU (Memorandum of Understanding with Hooksett), giving Londonderry extra money, and said there are numerous things that can increase revenue by $25,800. He noted an increased amount of catastrophic aid that was not anticipated, and lower than normal use of sick days or substitute days.

“We believe we could add $109,808 to the general fund balance going forward,” he said. “That would give us a total of a $135,608 increase in revenue.” With a lease payment of $23,652,…that gives us a total reduction of $159,260. The lease payment would come out of the default budget and would get you to the 5 cent reduction level.”

Greenberg continued down a list that would bring the rate down to 10 cents: $13,440 for an athletic equipment error in the purchase of hurdles, $72,600 because a Special Education student tuitioned out of district was not returning to Londonderry, $22,000 for Title 1 benefit costs taken out of the general fund and charged to the grant, $8,000 in weight room stipend reductions, and $14,395 to eliminate a Middle School special education assistant. Those bring the total to $295,695 and to the 10 cent level.

“If you want to get to the flat tax rate, we’re recommending the following: reduction across the board of supplies by $50,000, maintenance supplies and materials reduced by $50,000, and reduce the transportation account by $46,305,” Greenberg continued. “That leaves enough money in the transportation account to get a half a bus or a kindergarten bus if we need it. That brings us to a level tax rate.”

Knowing that there are a number of warrant articles, one of which is a bond, he said that if the board moves to a flat tax rate, it would not affect the programs and services offered students.

“This is a defendable, positive budget with these recommended reductions,” Greenberg said.

Board member Leitha Reilly asked Greenberg if he was recommending the flat tax rate budget, and Greenberg said he was.

Reilly said she wanted the special education assistant to remain in the budget, saying the more people there for the kids, the better.

Greenberg said that after looking at the hours, the special education assistant position wasn’t needed at this time and if service hours went up, he would return to the board to replace the position.

Board member Steve Young made a motion to accept the flat rate budget, which is $304,945 below default, and it was seconded by Reilly.

John Robinson made a motion to reduce the budget by an additional $40,583 below the flat rate, and John Laferriere seconded it for discussion purposes.

Greenberg said any deeper cuts would impact programs, and added that he had left enough in the budget for the unexpected things. He said further cuts would be detrimental to programs.

Robinson said that with a $66 million budget, $40,583 should be able to be cut without hurting programs.

Robinson’s motion failed 1-4, with Robinson the sole vote in favor.

The motion by Young to accept the proposed budget of a $66,240,583 flat rate budget passed unanimously.

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