Pinkerton Tuition Rate Comes in Lower Than Projected

It was an early Christmas present for Pinkerton Academy’s five sending towns, with regular education tuition for 2015-16 coming at less than those towns were warned to expect.

The semi-private school, which provides high school services for Auburn, Chester, Derry, Hampstead and Hooksett, announced its tuition and budget Thursday, Dec. 11. While Headmaster Griffin Morse warned the sending town superintendents of a regular education increase as high as 4 percent, tuition came in at 2.89 percent ($308.45) over the current year’s tuition.

The Regular Education budget of $33,990,249 represents an increase of 3.9 percent, according to a press release.

Pinkerton regular education tuition will be $10,964 per student, up from $10,656.

The 2015-16 budget includes no building projects or major initiatives. It reflects one new staff position in Special Education, repair to the roof of the Saltmarsh Library and increases for utilities.

Tuition rates have also been set for the three Special Education programs provided at Pinkerton Academy. Tuition for the Resources program will be $7,338.05, an increase of 2.80 percent with a projected enrollment increase of 15 students. The Pinkerton Academy Special Services for Educational Success (PASSES) program tuition will be $20,807.02; an increase of 4.22 percent. The Alternative Comprehensive Training (ACT) tuition rate will be $22,991.12, representing a 3.16 percent increase. Enrollment in the PASSES and ACT programs are each projected for an increase of six students.

Morse said in a statement, “Students and taxpayers are served well with our 2015-2016 budget. Technology, staffing and facilities are in good shape, allowing an adjustment to tuition which still leaves Pinkerton with among the lowest costs- per-pupil in New Hampshire. Most importantly, our students are thriving and their good work with our faculty have attracted more students so we are fortunate to have a stable enrollment in these difficult times.”

It was good news for Derry, which is faced with a more than $400,000 loss in state “adequacy” funds due to declining enrollment and an increase in New Hampshire Retirement contributions of $317,344.67. Last week the Administration was directed to look at what a $2 million cut in the budget would entail, and reported back to the board and Fiscal Advisory Committee that it would involve cutting 13 elementary teaching positions and several other cuts in personnel. The board was reluctant to make so many cuts, and Chairman Neal Ochs was scheduled to discuss other options with Superintendent Laura Nelson.

Nelson wrote in an e-mail Friday that, “We are very pleased that the Pinkerton tuition came in lower than our projected number.  We estimated a tuition increase of 4 percent in the current draft budget. This will be very helpful.”

Derry Cooperative School District Business Administrator Jane Simard agreed. In a phone call she stated, “This will definitely help in reducing our budget. It will be reflected in the updated budget I present Monday night (Dec. 15) “.

Simard estimated that the lower tuition rate could help whittle the proposed Derry budget by $300,000. She said that number also includes a placeholder of 15 Derry students expected to leave Pinkerton for the Next Charter School.

In the first joint meeting of the School Board and Fiscal Advisory Committee, the administration presented a working budget for 2015-16 of 79,027,113, an increase of $987,217 over last year’s $78,039,985.

The original proposed budget was $45,438.22 less than the default.

Tuition at Pinkerton Academy is set by dividing the budget for an academic year by the projected total number of students for that year. Total projected enrollment at Pinkerton Academy for 2015-2016 year is 3,100 students.

Roxanne Wilson, Timberlane assistant superintendent for the Hampstead district, which sends its high school students to Pinkerton, also said the lower tuition hike would be a boon to her district. “It came in slightly under the placeholder percentage, which will save us $52,000. It is a significant savings,” she said in a phone interview Monday.

Wilson said the board would be meeting Tuesday. Dec. 16, and would “realign” the budget in light of the 2.89 percent hike.

“It’s a nice way to not have to go back to the budget and add to it,” she said.

Darrell Lockwood, superintendent for Chester, another Pinkerton sending town, said he had budgeted for a 4 percent increase But Chester is also planning on 12 fewer students at Pinkerton, he said, “so it equals out.”

Lockwood said the lower-than-predicted tuition will result in a budget that is $32,000 less than originally proposed.

Charles Littlefield, superintendent for Pinkerton sending towns Hooksett and Auburn, could not be reached for comment.