Budget includes money for band, girls hockey, camp

PETERBOROUGH — ConVal School Board members last week added funding for band uniforms, the girls ice hockey team and a summer camp program for middle school students to the proposed operating budget for 2014-2015.

They also supported a plan to hire a licensed occupational therapist to replace an occupational therapy assistant who is retiring and to reorganize the special education administrative structure, based on recommendations from a study by the Southeastern Regional Education Service Center.

The changes, which were made during a School Board budget work session on Thursday, add about $190,000 to operating expenses in the budget proposal. But due to reductions in health insurance, purchased services, supplies, electricity and gasoline, the increase would be closer to $106,000. The overall gross budget is expected to be about $45,554,135, less than one percent higher than last year’s approved budget of $45,448,301.

ConVal Principal Brian Pickering said the girls hockey program, funded by boosters, has been running successfully for three years, which makes it due for funding based on past district practices.

“It’s going strong,” Pickering told the board. “We have 25 skaters, more than the boys program.”

He said the cost would be about $15,000 for equipment, coaches’ stipends, ice time and transportation.

Pickering said the band uniforms, expected to cost about $30,000, should have a life expectancy of about 20 years. They will be a traditional design, with stain-resistant and washable polyester fabric.

Board members were divided on whether to budget $40,000 to pay half the cost of a 13-day overnight residential summer camp program for about 75 ConVal middle schoolers. The Peterborough Rotary Club has offered to pay for the rest of the program, which would be run by Nature’s Classroom at Sargent Center in Hancock.

In response to questions about the value of the program, School Superintendent Brendan Minnihan said he would be working with Nature’s Classroom to develop a program that would provide academic enrichment through the students’ engagement with the outdoor activities at the camp. Minnihan said it would be a good investment, especially since the Rotary Club is willing to cover half the cost.

When the board split, 4-4, on whether to add the program, Board Chair Butch Estey cast a tie-breaking vote in favor.

“I see the impact these programs can have for kids who fall by the wayside,” Estey said.

According to Director of Student Services Rick Matte, the changes recommended by the SERESC study will provide a more efficient structure for special education. A preschool consultant position will be eliminated and the responsibilities of the current special education coordinator position for grades K-8 will be divided into two positions — one a K-4 coordinator and the other a grades 5-8 coordinator. The overall staff count won’t change, but the additions will add about 30 days of staff time during the year, at a cost of about $12,000.

The board also voted to use $220,000 from the district’s Special Education Trust Fund as revenue for next year’s budget calculations. The district is expecting lower state adequacy revenue, which is based on enrollment, and the transfer will help offset that loss.

Matte said the district will still have about $300,000 in the trust fund that could be used in case of unexpected mandatory special education costs. He said that amount should be adequate.

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