January 26, 2011

Proposed School Budget Cuts $4.5 million, 46 jobs

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY -- Facing the leanest budget year in recent memory, the Derry School Board finalized a proposal Tuesday night that cuts more than $4.5 million and 46 teaching jobs from the current year.
“This budget is very, very important and took a lot of hard work,” said School Board Chairman Kevin Gordon at Tuesday’s meeting. “It was a tedious, long task, and not an easy task to do.”
The proposal unanimously approved Tuesday comes in at $73.4 million, including $2.9 million in reductions from salary and benefits associated with the elimination of 46 teaching jobs and 14 other district positions.
Looming over this year’s budget is the anticipated loss of $6.4 million in state adequacy aid,
 $500,000 in catastrophic aid and $483,000 for expiring kindergarten funding. 

Some controversy has also surrounded increases to Pinkerton Academy tuition, which will rise $342 per student next year to a rate of $9,712. Derry will send 84 fewer students to Pinkerton next year, resulting in an overall savings of $161,000. School district business administrator Jane Simard said Tuesday that the district would’ve saved more than $700,000 if Pinkerton tuition had remained constant. 
Pinkerton Headmaster Mary Anderson has said the trustees took Derry’s concerns into consideration and cut $2 million and 11.5 faculty positions from their initial budget proposal. 
On the warrant document, voters will see a school budget of $76.6 million, said Superintendent Mary Ellen Hannon. That number includes $1.3 million in federal projects, $1.2 million in the self-funded food service program and $719,000 in a federal education jobs grant. 
The single-year jobs grant saved about 13 teaching jobs that were part of the original reductions proposed, Hannon said. 
Though only one teacher spoke at Tuesday’s meeting, about 25 educators filled the audience area, standing in solidarity for a brief moment. 
“Teachers are in the audience here tonight because we all believe in Derry education and we want Derry education to be the thing that brings people to Derry,” said Meg Morse-Barry, a town resident, Derry teacher and president of the Derry Education Association. “... We’re coming up to a school year that’s going to be rather difficult and we hope that in the year 2012 and 2013 we can look at bringing some of these people back.” 
Hannon called for residents to continue reaching out to Concord with concerns about the impacts adequacy funding cuts will have in Derry. 
“It’s about every voice and the governor has told me that Derry has been heard,” she said. “... What that means politically for him, I have no idea. I have been a part of this process and testified in Concord and found it to be incredibly disturbing that the voices are not heard and that politics overtakes what’s best for the children.” 
The school warrant also includes a collective bargaining agreement with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which Hannon said serves educational assistants. She said the two-year contract would see a $21,800 impact in 2011-2012 and $78,000 in 2012-2013. 
The school’s deliberative session is Feb. 12. 

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