By CHELSEY POLLOCK
Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY -- Members of the Derry School Board have asked Pinkerton Academy trustees to make significant cuts to next year’s budget to help offset the district’s anticipated loss of $7.1 million in state adequacy aid.
Currently, 33 percent of the Derry Cooperative School District budget covers Pinkerton Academy tuition expenses, said board member Ken Linehan on Sunday. And with the $7.1 million reduction on the horizon, Linehan and other board members have asked that Pinkerton trustees make enough cuts that Derry would see $2.3 million — or 33 percent of that total reduction — in savings next year.
Hampstead and Chester also send high school students to Pinkerton Academy, though Linehan said that more than 70 percent of Pinkerton students are from Derry.
“We know that it will be particularly difficult to cut their budget by roughly $3 million plus,” said Linehan, who proposed the board write the letter at Tuesday’s regular meeting. “I don’t know their operating budget in detail and they are an independent entity, so we really need to rely on them to be sensitive to our needs and do what they can.”
The board earlier directed district staff to look for $4.5 million in cuts from its own budget, a proposal of which was unrolled last week. Under the current proposal, 75 positions are set to be cut, including 34 from regular instruction programs and 27 from special programs, including special education.
But Linehan has said he doesn’t want to see the entire burden of the state aid loss fall to elementary and middle school students.
“If we were to try to make cuts at K through 8 only, I think that would be an unfair expectation and too drastic a cut for those grades,” Linehan said. “To me, it was just basic that if our high school students represent 33 percent of our budget that we should try to distribute evenly between the grades.”
Pinkerton Academy Headmaster Mary Anderson said she received the letter early Thursday morning and shared it with trustees during a meeting Thursday night. Copies of the letter have been sent to trustees that were not present at Thursday’s meeting, she said.
But with Pinkerton’s $23 million freshman academy building set to open in August, Anderson said the school will already face increased operating costs next year.
“We understand the position that (the Derry School Board) is in, but on the other hand, we are opening a new building which will incur new costs in next year’s budget,” Anderson said.
Anderson said that no formal budget decisions have been made, but that trustees will take the Derry request under advisement during upcoming discussions.
The next scheduled trustees meeting is Nov. 18, and Anderson has assured sending school superintendents that she will have a tuition estimate for 2011-2012 by Nov. 23.