January 06. 2013 10:41PM

Candia plans 8 percent drop for school budget

Union Leader Correspondent

CANDIA - The Candia School District and the town Budget Committee are taking a conservative approach to 2013-2014, proposing a budget over half a million dollars less than last year's.

The Candia Budget Committee has proposed a 2013-2014 general fund budget for the Candia School District of $7,662,853.69, a $629,001.11 or 8-percent decrease from last year's figure.

Under the proposed plan, significant changes include cutting regular education program costs by $95,354, special programs by $158,162, health services by $65,933, and student transportation services by $49,780. A huge drop comes from the removal of a line item which transferred money to the capital projects funds, removing $357,960 from the budgets. Increases include athletics with an $11,185 boost and high school tuition rising $73,408.

Some line items reveal the new challenges imposed on the district by the Common Core standards, recently adopted by the state, which change both classroom content and the method of instruction. Math textbook purchases, for instance, show an increase of $111,149 as the district attempts to find a math program which is compliant with the requirements.

An area of controversy is the funding of a Common Core Teacher Facilitator, a three-year teaching position which would assist instructors as an expert on the program and how to effectively implement it. The SAU, and particularly Superintendent Dr. Charles Littlefield, have stressed the position as essential, but school boards in Candia and Hooksett have shown reluctance.

Part of the concern for the SAU is that Common Core also includes a new evaluation test, Smarter Balance, the results of which will be used to measure the district's performance.

"Our effectiveness as a school district will be measured on the new test (and) how well we perform on a high-stakes test is going to be depend on how well we implement the Common Core," said Littlefield during a budget hearing Jan. 2. "It revolutionizes what we teach and how we teach it."

Littlefield also noted that should the district perform poorly on the test, the consequences from the state would be far more severe than under previous tests.

The SAU and school board asked for $41,550 for the position, reallocating funds saved in teacher compensation costs. Teacher salary expenses will drop by $173,080 in the new budget, due to retirements and the hiring of younger replacements at a lower pay scale, with teacher insurance costs also dropping by $30,319. The budget committee, however, offered only $20,000 for the facilitator in its proposed budget.

Littlefield expressed concern that he would not be able to find a qualified individual to take on such an intensive task with that level of compensation.

The Budget Committee will offer its official recommendations Wednesday.

Outside of the proposed budget, the district is also proposing a number of warrant articles. According to a draft of the district's warrant, a collective bargaining agreement reached between the Candia School Board and the Candia Educational Association will ask for increases in salaries and benefits. The increases total $52,137 more money in 2013-2014, $65,146 in 2014-2015, and $50,513 in 2015-2016.

The final budget and proposed warrant articles will be voted on at the upcoming town meeting. The first session of the annual meeting, the deliberative session where the warrants may be discussed and amended, will occur Feb. 9 at 9 a.m. in the Henry W. Moore School. The voting session will occur March 12, from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the same location.