Additions could raise district budget

Administrators may ask for $545,000 to finish high school parking lot renovation

PETERBOROUGH — Although the first draft of the ConVal School District operational budget for 2014-2015 shows overall expenses being essentially flat, the School Board will be meeting early next month to review possible additions that could bring the budget slightly over the $46 million mark.

The initial proposal calls for an operating budget of $45,509,405 next year, which is $61,104 more than last year’s $45,448,301 approved budget, an increase of less than 1 percent. At that level, the default budget, which would take effect if voters turn down the budget, would be $45,065,672, nearly 1 percent less than last year’s budget.

Budget highlights

On Friday, ConVal Business Administrator Marian Alese said the initial proposal includes an overall reduction of two teaching positions and 1.5 paraprofessional positions. The district will also eliminate a literacy coach position and a vocational education support position at the high school and eliminate an administrative assistant job at the SAU office.

Health insurance costs will drop by almost $200,000, a decrease of 2.84 percent, according to the draft budget. District employees are now contributing 9 percent toward the cost of health insurance, Alese said, and the Local Government Center has reduced its premiums by 0.4 percent.

The district will save $16,000 due to lower unemployment compensation, which had been higher in recent years as a result of larger staff reductions, Alese said.

Another $19,000 is being saved as the district phases out an annuity program for administrators. Newly hired administrators are not receiving annuities as part of their compensation package.

The budget calls for a 3 percent merit pool to fund raises for administrators and a 3 percent wage increase for support staff.

The budget includes about $25,000 to fund programs that the Harris Center for Conservation Education is no longer able to provide for free to the district and about $3,000 to expand the Cornucopia Project gardening program to all of the district’s elementary schools.

The purchased services portion of the budget includes funding for infrastructure, paving and walkways at Antrim Elementary School that had been cut from last year’s budget as well as continued classroom and fields renovations at the high school. But overall, the property services portion is down 5.4 percent, partly because the district has finished the repairs needed to move the alternative education program at the high school out of trailers and into the school building.

On the revenue side, the district expects to see a loss of $250,000 in state adequacy aid, which is based on enrollment. That could mean that even with a flat operating budget, the district assessment — the amount to be raised by taxes, could rise by about $1 million to $34,115,306. Last year, the district used $695,822 from unreserved fund balance to reduce the district assessment. At this time, the budget proposal doesn’t include use of fund balance.

“All-in” budget

At upcoming meetings, School Board members plan to discuss possible additions to the operating budget — items that the administration did not include in the initial budget draft when asked to produce a baseline proposal.

One of those additions is $40,000 for a Quest summer program, a 13-day overnight residential summer program for about 75 ConVal middle schoolers that would be run by Nature’s Classroom at Sargent Center in Hancock. Members of the Peterborough Rotary Club spoke to the board recently about the program and promised to come up with the additional money needed if the board supports the plan. Board members said they’d give the Rotary an answer at their Dec. 3 meeting.

The “all-in” budget would also include about $311,000 in additional funding for technology, including upgrades to make iPads and Chromebook computers available to all middle school students and replacement of equipment that’s more than five years old. Band uniforms, expected to cost about $30,000, are also on the “All-in” list.

Alese said the “all-in” items will be up for discussion at upcoming board meetings.

Warrant articles

Also under consideration are four possible warrant articles that would be voted on separate from the budget.

The ConVal parking lot repair is expected to cost about $545,000 for a complete rebuilding of all the sections except for the bus and drop-off lanes, which were rebuilt last summer. The road that runs alongside South Meadow School toward the back parking lot is expected to cost $150,000 and the ConVal track resurfacing should cost about $265,000. Each of those projects could possibly use money from capital reserve accounts as well as funds raised through taxation. The board may also seek voter approval to keep up to 2.5 percent of the district assessment as an ongoing fund balance, which could only be used for emergencies or to reduce the tax rate.

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