Hearing for $77.67 Million School Budget Jan. 13

The Derry School Board will go to the voters in its Jan. 13 public hearing with a budget reduced from its original working number, but still higher than the board had hoped to present.

The administration originally presented the board and Fiscal Advisory Committee with a working budget of $79,027,113, an increase of $987,217 over the approved 2014-15 budget.  But concern for the taxpayers prompted the two groups to ask the administration to come back with a different scenario. Superintendent Laura Nelson met with her administrative team and came back with the following:

• Option One, meeting the minimum state standards for classroom size of 25 students or fewer per educator, Kindergarten-grade 2 and 30 students or fewer per educator, grades 3-5, which would have resulted in a cut of 13 classrooms and a savings of $910,000;

• Option Two, adhering to the board’s recommended class size of 22 or fewer, K-2 and 26 or fewer, 3-5, with a proposed reduction of eight classrooms and a savings of $560,000;

• Option 3, adhering to the minimum state standards of “striving for” 20 students or fewer per educator, with one classroom trimmed from grades K-2 and a savings of $70,000; and

• Option 4, adhering to the minimum state standards of “striving for” 25 students or fewer per educator in grades 3-5, with two classrooms reduced and a savings of $140,000.

Middle-school options included an Option One of condensing literature and composition positions, resulting in a reduction of six English Language Arts teachers, along with one music teacher and one computer teacher, for a savings of $560,000; or Option Two, cutting the music and computer teachers but leaving English Language Arts alone for a savings of $140,000.

The board and Fiscal Advisers eventually went with Options 3 and 4 for elementary levels and Option 2 for middle-school.

The budget meetings fostered an interest from the community, with both teachers and other community members turning out for the last two meetings. Gilbert H. Hood Middle School principal Austin Garafolo offered his gym for the meetings, which drew between 100 and 300 people.

The new bottom line is $77,677,113, a cut of $1,350,000 from the original working budget.

The board and Advisory Committee had originally asked the administration to come up with a $2 million reduction from the working budget, but when Nelson and her team produced one, the proposed cuts were deemed too harsh and she returned with the other options.

Fiscal Advisory Committee member Walter Deyo had been an advocate of the original Option Two for elementary, with the cut of eight classrooms. In a phone interview Friday he said that it was the concept put forth by Nelson and her team and the board and the Advisory Committee should have gone with it.

“They’re saying that the professionals who work with this stuff every day don’t know enough,” he said. “This was their suggestion, but there are people who don’t want to listen.”

Deyo also liked other ideas, such as the suggestion to cut back on assistant principals. He also expressed concern about class sizes.

“I’m not saying we should strip the budget,” Deyo said. “But it’s time we do something about it, in a reasonable manner.”

The meeting is Tuesday, Jan. 13, at 6:30 p.m. in the West Running Brook Middle School cafeteria.