December 23, 2010

School budget set for public hearing

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY -- After weeks of discussion, Derry’s fiscal advisory committee and school board have signed off on a preliminary budget proposal to go before voters for public input next month.
The current proposal sits at $73.4 million for the general fund, with $1.2 million for the
 self-funded food service program, said the district’s business administrator Jane Simard Wednesday.
The district is set to receive $1.3 million in federal funding, she said, and $719,000 as part of a federal education jobs grant.
But faced with the anticipated loss of $7.1 million in state adequacy aid, the district proposed an initial budget that found $4.5 million in cuts over the current year.
Recent numbers have shown that state funding gap might be
 decreased to $6.4 million, Simard said. Few changes have been made to the district’s initial proposal, which now includes a decrease of $5.8 million in spending over the current year. 

But at a meeting Monday night, members of both the school board and fiscal advisory committee came to a consensus to include a $75,000 wage pool to fund merit pay raises for non-union support staff and administrators next year, Simard said. 
The merit raises would come in between 1 and 2 percent of an employee’s current salary, she said. 
No administrator pay raises were approved last year, and school board Chairman Kevin Gordon said it was about time. 
“They took a wage freeze last year and we have administrators that make close to some of the highest paid teachers, and here we are laying off teachers and putting more work on them,” Gordon said in an interview Wednesday. 
Gordon said the board is also looking to start a long-range planning committee to look at employee wages, among other issues. 
“We said, let’s do these raises as a one-time deal and give them what we can this year,” he said. “We know we probably won’t be able to give them a raise next time, so then we need to look forward.” 
The committee will be comprised of the board chairman, vice chairman and secretary as well as representatives from the community. The board will begin looking for volunteers in January, Gordon said. 
At Monday’s meeting, the group also supported leasing computers next year, as opposed to buying new equipment outright. The initial budget proposal included $120,000 to purchase 90 new computers to replace outdated equipment in three computer labs, Simard said. 
But after members of the fiscal advisory committee suggested the district look into leasing, the technology committee came up a $37,000 proposal to lease the necessary computers instead, Simard said. 
This would be the first time the district has leased computers and Superintendent Mary Ellen Hannon said next year would be an experiment before a long-term plan is finalized. 
The public hearing on the budget proposal will be held at 7 p.m. on Jan. 13 at West Running Brook Middle School. 
Hannon said the school board will likely hold a budget work session the following week and finalize and approve the budget for deliberative session at its meeting on Jan. 25. 

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