State Cuts, Pinkerton Tuition Boost Derry School Budget

An increase in Pinkerton Academy tuition and Pinkerton Special Education tuition, along with reduced revenues from the state, have changed the bottom line of the Derry Cooperative School District’s working budget.

Business Manager Jane Simard reviewed the budget at the Nov. 24 School Board meeting, including a 4.68 percent increase in Pinkerton regular education tuition. While dickering by Assistant Superintendent MaryAnn Connors-Krikorian brought down the cost of a new math program, reduced state money will also affect the bottom line.

The working budget for 2016-17 was $82,643,334.53, an increase of $2,466,221.53 over last year’s $80,177,113.00. The default budget will be $82,280,142.52, or $363,192.01 less than the working budget. The working budget is now $2,588,578 more than last year’s.

In the School Board meeting, Simard said she had used a placeholder of a 4 percent increase for Pinkerton tuition and had estimated the increase as $438 per regular education student. The actual increase is 4.68 percent and an increase of $513.03 per student for a total $757,890.10 increase in regular education tuition. She had estimated an increase of $624,642.50.

Simard had budgeted a similar 4 percent placeholder for Pinkerton special education tuition, which is a surcharge on top of the regular education fee. The three special education programs, Resource, PASSES (Pinkerton Academy’s Special Services for Educational Success) and ACT (Alternative Comprehensive Training), all saw increases and the total special education cost for Pinkerton students will increase by $270,278.95 rather than the projected $229,344.84.

Simard explained the district’s commitment to Next Charter School students. The district pays the regular tuition cost for Pinkerton for each Derry student at Next, minus their portion of the state adequacy grant. With the new Pinkerton tuition rate, she said, this would be $11,477.63 per student, minus an adequacy grant of $3,561.27, resulting in a commitment of $7,916.36 per Next student. With five students projected to transfer to Next in 2016-17, this works out to an increase of $66,585.40 for Next tuition.

Connors-Krikorian negotiated with vendors for a proposed new Kindergarten-Grade 5 math program and brought the cost down to $286,150 from the original figure of $338,720, saving the district $52,570.72 off the original budgeted amount.

However, Simard said, state revenues will also be less this year. Based on factors including the Average Daily Membership, state revenues for 2016-17 have been reduced by $671,000 and the state portion of the property tax revenues has decreased by $332,000.

This is the first year of “phasing out” the stabilization grants, she said.

Due to the changes, the tentative working budget is now $2,588,578 more than last year’s.

Board member Ken Linehan observed, “Pinkerton is responsible for almost $1 million of the increase and we are losing almost $1 million in state aid.”

Simard also discussed with the board and television audience the possibility of adding another section of the NECC (New England Center for Children) program for children on the autism spectrum. The district currently partners with NECC to offer two programs, a middle school program out of Gilbert H. Hood Middle School and an elementary program out of Derry Village Elementary School. Both programs are full, Simard said, but an estimated eight children on the spectrum are going into first grade this year.

“If we add another NECC partner classroom, it will keep those students from having to be placed out of district,” Simard said. The out-of-district cost for all eight would be $433,000 and the district would save about $200,000 by starting another program, she said.

The new program would be paid for out of Federal funds and that would be accomplished by moving several teachers paid for by Federal funds to the Derry payroll.

A third NECC classroom would be beneficial to the children socially and to the district financially, Simard said.

The board and the Fiscal Advisory Committee will continue working on the budget through December on Monday nights at 6:30 p.m. at the Gilbert H. Hood library. The meetings are open to the public.