School District Budget Goes to Hearing Jan. 12

The Derry Cooperative School District will go to its constituents in a budget hearing Jan. 12 with a proposed 2016-17 budget of $81,832,588.27, a 2.13 percent increase over last year’s approved budget.

The proposed budget has a bottom line of $81,832,588.27. Without including revenues, this is an increase of $1,655,475.27 over last year’s approved $80,177,113. However, including revenues expected, the actual increase is $3,206,686.22.

If approved, it would be a 2.13 percent increase.

The default budget is $81,870,491.

Business Administrator Jane Simard said the budget is still subject to change, pending the settling of a transportation contract. She declined to give the average cost on a single-family home due to the Town Council still having to set its budget.

Drivers of the increase include a reduction in state “adequate education” funding; a $513.03 increase or 4.68 percent in regular education costs for Pinkerton Academy; a $270,278 increase in the cost for Pinkerton’s three Special Education programs, Resource, PASSES (Pinkerton Academy’s Special Services for Educational Success) and ACT (Alternative Comprehensive Transition); and contracted raises. Derry tuitions its high school students to Pinkerton.

The working budget was approved at the Dec. 14 meeting of the board and the District’s Fiscal Advisory Committee, after seven weeks of trimming and paring the original request. Superintendent Laura Nelson presented first $700,000 and then another $300,000 of possible reductions.

Economies that the two entities agreed upon included trimming the number of teachers on middle school “teams” to four instead of five. Other cuts include deferring the purchase of a paperless registration system, saving $18,000; deferring the hiring of an in-school suspension supervisor and a technology education assistant, saving $16,000 and $18,000 respectively; and saving $16,999 on supplies, $15,624 on media, $15,000 on computer repair, $10,000 on transportation and $32,000 on deferring the hiring of two paraprofessionals for East Derry Memorial Elementary School.

Simard saved $134,578 by shifting the tuition for Next Charter School students to the PInkerton Academy line and $100,000 through the conversion to natural gas at Gilbert H. Hood Middle and Grinnell Elementary schools.

One of the more controversial items in the budget was $115,000 for a “data coach” to help the district with its data-based decision making. Nelson had originally put the position in the budget, then placed it on her list of possible cuts. But in the last budget meeting Dec. 14, the majority of the board and Fiscal Advisers asked for it to be put back in.

The warrant articles

Warrant articles will include a new teachers’ contract, the details of which were not available at press time.

In addition, the warrant will ask voters their views about free full-day kindergarten for all students.

The board voted 5-2 at its Dec. 15 meeting to put the free full-day kindergarten issue before voters, first in the Jan. 30 Deliberative Session and then in the March election. While several board members expressed concern about the cost on top of an already-strained tax rate and their own increased budget, the majority opted to let the voters decide.

Chairman Dan McKenna said the cost of implementing free full-day kindergarten would be $1,278,880 for personnel and $49,670 for curriculum for a total of $1,328,550. However, the district would also lose $518,000 from the current full-day students, he said, and would have to raise a total of $1,846,550 for that first year.

Implementing full-day kindergarten would mean an estimated $225 increase in taxes on the average single-family home.

The district provides free half-day kindergarten for all students and has full-day available on a tuition basis. The tuition is $360 per month or $3,600 per year.

Another warrant article will ask voters to approve a new lease for the Next Charter School, which will potentially bring in revenue for the district. At its Dec. 15 meeting, the board discussed and approved a new lease for Next, currently located in the former Tech Ed space at Gilbert H. Hood Middle School.

If approved by voters, the lease will charge Next $20,732 per year, with a total $237,678 in revenue to the district by the 10th year. Including capital improvement expenditures estimated at $206,000, the total payment to the School District over 10 years would be $443,678.09. With a 3 percent annual increase, the annual cost to Next would be $27,651 by Year 10.

The district conferred with its legal counsel and because this is a 10-year lease, it was recommended that it get approval from the voters.

The budget hearing will be Tuesday, Jan. 12, at 6:30 p.m. in the cafeteria of Gilbert H. Hood. The Deliberative Session is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 30, beginning at 10 a.m. at West Running Brook Middle School.