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Conval school district

School Board calling for 2.5 percent cut

Proposed budget is up 5 percent, but administrators are being asked to trim the increase

PETERBOROUGH — After taking a look at an initial draft of a proposed 2013-2014 budget that came in 5 percent higher than this year’s numbers, ConVal School Board members are asking administrators to cut the increase in half.

At their Dec. 4 meeting, board members reviewed what Supt. Dick Bergeron has referred to as a fully funded budget, which called for increases in programs and staffing that resulted in a overall proposed budget of $44.4 million, an increase of more than $2 million.

“The board voted to reduce the increase to 2.5 percent,” ConVal Business Administrator Marian Alese said on Friday.

Alese said administrators would be considering what maintenance items might be deferred and what equipment purchases might be delayed in an effort to reach the board’s target.

“We have a number of things we are talking about,” Alese said. “We’re working on finding the stuff that would have the least impact on programs.”

Alese said the initial budget proposal was based on the district’s five-year strategic plan. It included funding for full-day kindergarten programs throughout the district, replacement of equipment in the district’s computer labs, adding two health teachers to provide equivalent amounts of health education at all the district’s elementary schools and adding an additional school nurse to work in the elementary schools.

The proposal called for two additional full-time and one half-time position for middle school special education programs and funding for a teacher and an aide at a new preschool program at Peterborough Elementary School.

The administration recommended the preschool program at PES as an alternative to the current Pine Hill Child Care program at ConVal High School, after the Pine Hill Pine Hill Waldorf School in Wilton chose not to renew its contract with the school district.

The initial budget also called for a three percent wage increase for support staff in the district.

Under the budget proposal, salaries for district personnel would increase by 4.2 percent. The largest hike in that category is a 12.4 percent increase for paraprofessionals, which reflects wage increases and additional staffing.

Benefits would increase by 9.5 percent, mostly in the retirement category, where contributions for teacher retirement would jump from $1.6 million to $2.2 million and for non-teacher retirement from $476,448 to just under $600,000.

The draft budget also calls for significant hikes in repairs and maintenance. Overall, the property services category would jump by 57 percent, from $905,905 to $1,419,873. Alese said the draft budget includes upgrades to the track at ConVal, additional paving of school parking lots, generators for the schools and continuing repair and maintenance on the heating and air-conditioning units throughout the district. She said previous improvements to the heating and air conditioning units have led to significant reductions in electrical costs.

The electricity line item in the proposed budget is down by $56,580, an 11 percent reduction. Other purchased services would increase 10 percent, with the largest portion a $395,459 increase in the amount needed for special education tuition, due to additional out-of-district placements that will be required.

The district is expecting a slight decrease in supplies and materials. That’s mostly due to reductions in the amount spent on supplies, electricity and books, which are offset by fuel oil costs that are expected to increase by 2 percent, and gasoline and diesel fuel costs, up 15 percent.

Alese said the administration’s response to the board’s request for cuts will be discussed at Tuesday’s board meeting, which will be at Antrim Elementary School at 7 p.m. A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for Jan. 15.

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