Jaffrey-Rindge district’s proposed budget is up 4.2 percent

The Jaffrey-Rindge Cooperative School District is proposing a 4.2 percent increase in spending in the draft budget for 2014-2015.

The School Board had the first of three public review sessions in a meeting Monday night at Rindge Memorial School. District administrators are currently proposing an approximately 4.2 percent increase for its total operating budget for 2014-2015, adding $1,069,999 to last year’s approved budget of $25,228,851 for a total of $26,298,850. The draft budget for 2014-2015 represents a jump from last year’s proposed 2.85 percent, approximately $700,000, increase in the school district’s operating budget for 2013-2014.

Jaffrey-Rindge School Board Secretary Vivianne Rocheleau said by phone Tuesday that the first draft of the budget doesn’t include some potential “wish-list” items that could be added later, like the proposed ice hockey team at Conant High School or additional SmartBoards, or interactive white boards, for Rindge Memorial and Jaffrey Grade schools.

“You want to go lean and mean [on draft one],” Rocheleau said.

The largest potential increase in cost in the 2014-2015 draft budget is associated with the schools’ spending on supplies, new books and other items, like a new elementary math program, according to draft budget documents. An additional $118,536 is proposed, which would be a 16.4 percent increase over last year. A majority of this projected cost is the result of a planned new book adoption program for both grade schools, which adds $100,913 to school specific costs in the draft budget for 2014-2015. Spending is up, despite Conant High School proposing to eliminate its Nashua Community College program, and the school’s plans to cut 1.5 staff members for next year.

Salaries and benefits in the next school year are expected to go up by a total 1.6 percent, listed in the budget draft with a $268,343 increase over last year. Health insurance costs are expected to cause $221,386 of the projected rise, which is listed in the draft budget with an 8.7 percent increase over last year’s budget. According to the school district’s Finance Manager Karen Gray, health care premiums are up 7.1 percent for the school district.

Special education student services costs will potentially rise 15.6 percent, by a total of $277,320, with tuition costs for students sent to out-of-district schools and programs projected to jump by a total of $146,171, or 13.4 percent, in comparison to last year’s budget.

Maintenance costs may go up by $101,052, or 9.5 percent, with $100,000 proposed in the draft budget to go toward new paint and carpeting in school buildings.

District-wide services are projected to increase by 11.5 percent, or $307,320, in comparison to last year’s budget. A $250,000 wireless technology project is proposed as part of this increase in the draft budget. According to Gray, this wireless upgrade is meant to eliminate spotty Internet connections in all four school buildings.

Food service costs may go down by 0.4 percent, or $2,572, over last year.

Some of the other specific spending increases proposed in the 2014-2015 draft budget include a 7 percent, $108,249 increase in student transportation costs , $104,000 worth of technology professional services, including an IT director and consulting, and a budget line of $10,000 for each school building for staff professional development. Some potential drops in spending include a $6,000 decrease in tuition funding to Franklin Pierce University and a 28 percent, or $74,875, decrease in utility costs. Gray confirmed that the planned decrease in utility spending is a result of stabilizing costs over the last few years.

The default budget for 2014-2015 is $25,619,269, a 1.6 percent and nearly $400,000 increase over last year’s operating budget. The School Board’s proposed 2014-2015 budget will be put before voters in a deliberative session in February and will be voted on by ballot in March.

The board will be looking at the Jaffrey Grade School, Rindge Memorial School, student services, operations and maintenance, gifted and talented program, food service, district-wide services and warrant articles at the next two School Board meetings. The Dec. 9 and Dec. 16 meetings will both be held at Conant High School at 7 p.m.

Elodie can be reached by phone at 924-7172 ext. 228, or by email at ereed@ledgertranscript.com. Elodie is also on Twitter @elodie_reed.

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