Voters Approve Every Item on School District Warrant

Voters in the Derry Cooperative School District were in a generous mood in the March 8 elections, passing every item on the warrant.

The working budget, hammered out after seven weeks with the Fiscal Advisory Committee, was $81,832,588. The default budget, to which the district would automatically turn if the operating budget were rejected, was $81,970,492. It was $137,904 more than the proposed budget. The budget passed, 1,720 to 533.

The working budget survived several challenges from voters in the Jan. 30 Deliberative Session.

Highlights of the budget include a health insurance increase of 5.6 percent, a 4 percent increase in tuition for Pinkerton Academy, a $1,028,169 increase in Pinkerton special education tuition, a new math curriculum for grades Kindergarten-5 at $95,383, and an increased share of the retirement costs for teachers and staff.

Reductions include $41,744 in supplies, $91,942 in utilities from conversion of Gilbert H. Hood Middle School and Grinnell Elementary School to natural gas, and $354,000 in salary and benefits from the reduction of eight positions.

The budget includes an additional $204,000 for a third New England Center for Children (NECC) classroom. The NECC program services children on the autism spectrum.

The budget is a 2.13 percent raise over last year’s approved budget.

Voters were also asked to approve leasing a portion of Hood to Next Charter School for 10 years. This item passed, 1,932 to 452.

In addition, voters were asked to approve two contracts: Derry Education Association for one year, $403,888 and the AFCSME chapter for paraprofessionals, two years, $69,771 for the first year. These both passed, with the teacher contract passing 1,514 to 837 and the assistants’ contract 1,531 to 801.

Reached by phone on Saturday, board chairman Dan McKenna said he was pleased with the results and the support of the community.

“I think the results show that people think the School Board did a good job,” he said.

But, McKenna added, “The town of Derry has always supported the schools. We have good schools; people want good schools.”

The board, with the Fiscal Advisory Committee, crafted a responsible budget, McKenna said. The board did make some cuts, in response to declining enrollment, McKenna added. But it managed to balance that with the educational needs.