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Voters to see smaller budget

Lower special education costs drive down proposal; teacher contract on warrant

  • Wilton-Lyndeborough School Board and Budget Committee members agreed on an $11,5 million budget proposal on Tuesday,
  • Wilton-Lyndeborough School Board and Budget Committee members agreed on an $11,5 million budget proposal on Tuesday,
  • close up of hand and voting ballot

WILTON — Members of the Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative School Board and the board’s Budget Committee agreed to recommend a gross budget of $11,550,114 for the 2014-2015 school year at a joint meeting on Tuesday. District voters will also be considering a three-year teacher contract at the March 7 district meeting.

The budget recommendation is about a half percent lower than the current budget of $11,604,866. The chief factor for the decrease, according to a budget summary, is an across-the-board reduction in expected special education costs, expected to drop by more than $463,000.

“It’s partially due to fewer students, and there’s also been a concentrated effort to bring students back into the district, which reduces our tuition payments,” said School Board Chair Geoff Brock on Wednesday.

At Tuesday’s meeting, board members agreed to a $20,000 cut suggested by Budget Committee Vice Chair Dave Roemer, who said the committee had concerns about a proposed purchase of a pickup truck with plow attachment and co-curricular salaries. Business Manager Lisa Ambrosio said the truck could cost about $33,000, with $15,000 coming from this year’s budget. She said it could be used for plowing at the schools, moving equipment and picking up sand and salt. She also said Facilities Director Buddy Erb was often using his personal truck for such projects, which poses a liability issue.

Board member Harry Dailey said if the district has concerns about inadequate plowing at the schools, they should be taken up with town officials, who have been doing plowing.

“I don’t think we’ve been given enough evidence that there’s a definite need for a plow,” Dailey said.

Board member Alex LoVerme said the truck funding should remain in the budget.

“We shouldn’t expect someone to use a personal vehicle,” he said.

The board agreed to reduce the budget by $20,000, but didn’t make a decision on whether or not to purchase a truck.

“If we decide we need it, I think we could find the money if necessary in an $11 million budget,” Dailey said.

The board also approved warrant articles for the district meeting, including a proposed teacher contract. Voters will be asked to approve a three-year contract, with estimated increases for salary and benefits of $105,151 for 2014-2015, $87,132 for 2015-2016 and $87,155 for 2016-2017, based on current staffing levels.

Brock said Wednesday that the salary scale actually went down but that teachers will continue to receive step increases, so salaries overall will go up about 2 percent each year.

“For the teachers lower on the salary scale, the percentage will be higher,” Brock said on Wednesday. “It’s basically adjusted so every teacher gets about a $1,000 a year raise,”

The contract proposal was recently finalized and Budget Committee members will meet on Feb. 5, to hear more details from the School Board.

A warrant article calling for a 30-year bond of $8.25 million to finance an addition to Florence Rideout Elementary School in Wilton, as well as renovations to both Florence Rideout School and Lyndeborough Consolidated School, will also appear on the March 7 warrant. The School Board is proposing to educate all the district’s elementary school students at the Wilton school and use the Lyndeborough building for kindergarten and preschool students. The Lyndeborough building would also house the SAU offices and meeting space.

The proposal is contingent on passage of a second article to modify the district’s Articles of Agreement. The three-part article would change Article 3, which now calls for elementary schools in both Wilton and Lyndeborough, to give the School Board the authority to assign students to schools. It would also delete wording calling for the capital expenses related to each of the two elementary schools to be paid by the town where the school is located. Instead, all capital expenses would be paid by residents of both towns, based 50 percent on student population and 50 percent on equalized property valuation. It would also add a new article with a separate formula for the $8.25 million bond, with Lyndeborough residents to pay $96,564 annually for the 30 year period with Wilton residents to pay the balance.

Brock said the consolidation proposed would result in cost savings due to reductions in teaching and administrative positions and the district will save $29,871 each year that it is paying to rent space for the SAU office. He said the district projections call for saving $344,871 annually. Annual savings and Lyndeborough’s payment on the proposed bond is 28 percent of that number.

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