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ConVal’s preliminary budget up 3.3 percent, driven by salaries

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 1/8/2020 9:19:28 PM
Modified: 1/8/2020 9:18:52 PM

The proposed ConVal School District budget for the 2020-21 school year is up 3.3 percent over last year’s approved budget.

Superintendent Kimberly Rizzo-Saunders presented this year’s $48,343,567.85 proposed budget – which is $1,527,909.85 higher than last year’s budget – at Tuesday night’s School Board meeting.

Rizzo-Saunders explained that all the goals reflected in the budget are meant to support student growth, learning, and achievement.

“The bulk of our increase in budget is salary related,” she said.

Overall salary expenses increased 4.54 percent, she said, because the community voted in a collective bargaining agreement between the district and the ConVal Education Association last spring.

The District reduced two professional positions and three paraprofessional positions in this year’s budget, she said, but added nine positions, including the reintroduction of a dedicated middle school level Family and Consumer Sciences teacher position, and budgeting for a teacher, a paraprofessional, a social worker, and a part-time caseworker for developing a Preschool For All program.

The Preschool for All program, she said, is proposed to scale up over two years to eventually offer full-day, five day a week preschool services for all four year-olds in the district on an income-based sliding scale fee. The first year of the program would cost about $480,000 and provide programming for just under half of all four-year-olds in the district, she said, with services based in Antrim, Peterborough, and Greenfield, although there would be room for children from other towns interested in participating. She said there is not a plan to move towards having a preschool in every building, and locations are based on the location of population masses and transportation logistics.

Employee benefit costs increased by 2.18 percent, driven by teacher retirement buyouts and payments to the Federal Insurance Contributions Act, Rizzo-Saunders said. although staff contributions to insurance also increased by 16 percent.  

Purchased professional and technical service costs increased six percent in this year’s budget. Rizzo-Saunders said the increases cover the school’s welding program, and increased in costs of building inspections, athletic officials, and custodial services. 

The budget also reflects changes in technology, she said. There is less budgeted for books and paper this year, but technology replacement expenses are up. In addition, energy-efficient LED lights drove the more than $20,000 decrease in electricity costs. 

Property service-related expenses are down 21.3 percent, but Rizzo-Saunders said that voters will likely see warrant articles based on unmet needs in place of budget line items.

“We have been conservative and we can’t be conservative anymore,” she said in response to a comment about the consequences of putting off funding certain major facility improvement projects, like repaving parking lots. She agreed that responsibly maintaining the school district’s twelve buildings as educational facilities would eventually result in a bond issue. 

Total estimated revenue sources are down 4.6 percent, Rizzo-Saunders said. The District is minimizing the unreserved fund balance, whittling it from more than $1.2 million last year, to just $250,000. She said that although some parties believe that the District should hold on to closer to 500 or 800 thousand, “It was requested of the board that we not hold on to that much.” 

The deliberation session for the budget is scheduled for Feb. 4 at 6 p.m. in the high school gymnasium. The budget will be voted on on March 10, during the second half of the Annual School Meeting.


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