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ConVal School District

A deeper look at proposed budget

Though budget is up 1 percent, amount collected through taxes much higher

  • The ConVal School Board held a budget hearing on its 2014-2015 proposal on Tuesday.
  • The ConVal School Board held a budget hearing on its 2014-2015 proposal on Tuesday.

PETERBOROUGH — A proposed $45,872,410 operating budget for the ConVal School District is less than one percent higher than last year, but SAU 1 projections show that the district assessment — the amount to be raised by taxes — could rise by more than 3 percent if the budget is passed. That number led to calls for cuts at the School Board’s budget hearing on Tuesday.

“Three percent is excessive,” Al Burtt of Greenfield told board members. “My taxes went up 10 percent overall. The school portion is killing us.”

Burtt said he plans to recommend a reduction in the budget at the district’s deliberative session February, where he’ll recommend no salary increases for the highest paid administrators.

Peterborough Select Board member Barbara Miller, who represents her town on the Selectmen’s Advisory Committee, said she voted at last week’s SAC meeting not to support the budget and three proposed warrant articles because of their impact on taxes.

“We just can’t have it all this year,” Miller said.

The 3.3 increase in district assessment is due not only to the budget increase, according to ConVal Business Administrator Marian Alese, but also to changes in anticipated revenue for next year. The district is expecting to lose about $195,000 in adequacy aid from the state and at this time ConVal administrators are not projecting an unreserved fund balance. For the 2013-2014 budget, the School Board allocated $695,822 from unreserved fund balance to reduce taxes. At a recent School Board meeting, Greenfield representative Myron Steere proposed cutting the budget, saying the district has consistently had significant fund balances, but board members did not support his suggestion.

At the budget hearing, Hancock Select Board member John Jordan, who chairs the Selectmen’s Advisory Committee, announced that the members had voted unanimously not to support budget or warrant article for improvements to the ConVal parking lot, the high school track or the road leading to the back parking lot at South Meadow School. Jordan said the SAC did support a warrant article to purchase a tractor for the district’s maintenance department.

Alese, during a presentation of budget highlights, noted that salaries are up 1.25 percent as the district enters the fourth year of its contract with teachers and paraprofessionals. The district will be cutting two teaching positions and two paraprofessional jobs next year and eliminating the technology director position and one administrative assistant at the SAU office, for a total reduction in force of six jobs.

The salary lines include a three percent wage increase for support staff and a three percent merit pool for salary increases for administrators. School Superintendent Brendan Minnihan said the merit pool was a maximum amount that might not be entirely spent.

Alese noted that the budget for health insurance will drop by about $200,000, due to lower projected maximum costs and the fact that employees will now be paying nine percent of the premiums. The district will also save about $200,000 on supplies, because no new curriculum purchases are planned as the district prepares to adjust to requirements of the new Common Core standards. But increases in technology at several schools, especially purchases of iPad and Chromebook computers for use by high school and middle school students, will add about $327,000.

The default budget, which would go into effect if the budget proposal is rejected by voters in March, has been calculated at $45,022,549, a 1.5 percent decrease from last year’s approved budget of $45,698,301.

When asked what would be cut if the district had to operate under a default budget, Minnihan said it would be difficult to predict, but would probably mean teaching cuts.

“You almost always end up losing people,” he said.

Dave Anderson can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 233 or danderson@ledgertranscript.com. He’s on Twitter at @DaveAndersonMLT.

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