School District Presents First Draft of Budget at $79.3 Million

The Derry Cooperative School District is looking at a proposed budget of $79,323,038 for 2014-15, but administrators warn that it is subject to change.
The administration presented the first draft of its 2014-15 budget to the School Board and the Fiscal Advisory Committee in a budget meeting held this past Monday at Gilbert H. Hood Middle School.

After a welcome by Superintendent Laura Nelson, Business Administrator Jane Simard presented a PowerPoint of the proposed budget.
Simard noted that this year’s budget requests tie into the goals of the School Board and Strategic Planning Committee: to have all students, Kindergarten-Grade 12, learning at a high level; to provide a safe, positive school environment that promotes learning and well-being; and to increase community involvement.
Simard said part of the process in crafting the budget was looking at charts of projected enrollment, not only on the district level, but on the school level. To that end, the administration wants to move a teacher from first to third grade at Grinnell Elementary School, and to hire one new fifth-grade teacher based on projected enrollment. The district hired a fifth-grade teacher for Grinnell this year, but with a one-year contract, Simard and Nelson explained.
East Derry Memorial Elementary School’s projected enrollment will allow that school to reduce its workforce by one teacher, Simard said. Derry Village Elementary School requires no changes in personnel. Ernest P. Barka Elementary School’s enrollment will require moving teachers from grades 1 and 4 to grades 3 and 5, and eliminating the first-and fourth-grade positions. But reassigning the teachers will eliminate the need to hire new ones, Simard explained. South Range Elementary School’s enrollment will require one fewer classroom teacher, she said.
Nelson noted, “We will move teachers around the district to meet these needs – there will be no monetary impact.”
The administration is also looking to reduce a part-time elementary band teacher position from .6 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) to .4 FTE, she said.
Simard said the district hopes to add a reading specialist to Grinnell, but will use the funds saved by eliminating the teacher position at South Range.
As for the two middle schools, West Running Brook and Gilbert H. Hood, there will be no new positions and no positions eliminated, she said.
Revenues for the district are expected to be down, Simard said, with Catastrophic Aid, the federal funding for special education, expected at $1.1 million. “Last year we spent over $3 million on student services,” Simard said.
State adequacy funds are also down, with the district expecting $1,514,777 less than in 2012-13, Simard said. She put it in perspective: “That’s approximately equal to staffing one elementary school, or 25 teacher positions.”
Teacher salaries, by contract, are expected to rise by 2 percent and step increases of 3.5 percent. Teachers on the top “step” will receive only the 2.5 percent raise. Educational assistants are by contract expected to have a 15 cent per hour raise. Non-union employees, including custodians, secretaries, principals and administrators, will not receive raises this year, she said.
While the administration has not requested any new classroom teaching positions, they are seeking to add back in the Assistant Director of Student Services, at $115,000 per year, including salary, benefits, FICA and retirement. They are also requesting three additional work days for computer assistants and library assistants, so they can attend team meetings and professional development. This would total $5,111. They are requesting a middle-school library assistant at $20,947.32, and are requesting additional funds for curriculum design, which would be an additional $9,880.
The salary line’s total increase over last year’s budget would be $84,544.03. 
The benefits line is expecting an increase of $369,629.51. But Simard warned that is subject to change. It has already changed, she said, noting that when she prepared the budget for the Monday meeting, she had figured on a guaranteed maximum health insurance rise of 10 percent, and a guaranteed maximum for dental of 5 percent. Kathy Kennedy, human resources director for the district, informed Simard Monday afternoon that the guaranteed maximum has come in at 2.2 percent for health care and zero percent for dental.
Kennedy, who attended the meeting, said, “Our liability has decreased considerably” due to preventive care and good health habits of district employees.
Simard said she would have a new figure for health and dental by the next meeting.
Other projected changes include $125,424, contracted services; $367,713, repairs and maintenance; $55,655, transportation; $100,567, supplies; $38,840, utilities; and $62,729, furniture and equipment. Decreases include tuition, $790,747 and $495,018, dues and debt service. Simard said the final bond payment on the West Running Brook Middle School will be in June 2014.
The 2013-14 final budget to be raised by taxes was $79,403,690, Simard said. The working budget for 2014-15 as of Monday was $79,323,038, an overall decrease by $80,652, she said.
Future topics to discuss include the Affordable Care Act penalty, now in the budget at $208,500; the possible cost savings from natural gas conversion at Hood and Grinnell; salary increases for non-union staff; setting up a capital reserve fund to help with retirement contributions; and curriculum and technology needs.
The budget meetings are held Monday nights in the Hood library, beginning at 6:30 p.m., and will be held Oct. 28, Nov. 4, Nov. 13, Nov. 18, Dec. 4, Dec. 11 and Dec. 18 (if needed). The public hearing on the budget is Jan. 21, 2014, and the deliberative session is Feb. 8.

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