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Londonderry considers taking on tuitioned outside students

Union Leader Correspondent

November 22. 2012 10:54PM

LONDONDERRY - Faced with unexpected budget shortages, Londonderry school officials are giving some serious thought to allowing students from other school districts to attend on a tuition basis next year.

During Monday night's School Board meeting, Superintendent Nathan Greenberg said two unnamed school districts have recently approached him and administrators from both of those districts have expressed an interest in Londonderry.

Allowing outsiders to attend Londonderry schools would be one way to generate necessary revenue at a time when local enrollments continue to drop.

"We've had a number of students tour our high school recently and had some apply to attend our high school on a tuition basis," the superintendent said.

While details have yet to be determined, Greenberg said he was "actively pursuing" both options at present time.

District officials warned this week that some staff reductions might still be necessary next year as Londonderry schools brace for last-minute shortfalls in federal funding.

An initial budget presentation had been scheduled to take place this week but that workshop was postponed after school officials realized they had various financial issues to tackle first.

The elimination of the state's 35 percent share of retirement monies will cost the district $1,427,195 next year, Superintendent Nathan Greenberg said Monday night.

"We'd originally anticipated being able to present the budget for the FY13 school year," Greenberg noted. "Now we have some issues to address."

Late last week the district got word on the latest anticipated cuts in state adequacy funding, causing Greenberg to pause.

Challenges for next year include a $79,000 shortfall in vocational transportation and tuition aid, combined with a $1,136,539 reduction in federal adequacy grants, among other things.

Greenberg expects the recent developments would ultimately result in a 50-cent increase on residential property taxes.

A projected enrollment drop of 170 students will necessitate further last-minute budget adjustments.

"Knowing we'll be facing a continuing drop in revenue from the state, we're including a number of warrant articles that we believe would serve in the best interests of the district in the long run," Greenberg said.

Initial budget recommendations will now be presented during the Tuesday School Board meeting at 7 p.m. at Londonderry Town Hall.

"Deferral and reduction of some initiatives we've put in place will help get us to a reasonable number," Greenberg said. "However, we are determined to retain class sizes as best we can. We don't want to eliminate programs, so it's likely we'll need to reduce in other areas."

"It's going to be tight," the superintendent stressed. "And we don't want to find ourselves in a situation where we're even worse off in 2014."

Establishing trust funds for employee health benefits and future purchases of equipment and technology might be an option down the road, Greenberg said.

Board member John Robinson said another method of revenue generation might be to "add fees for activities we normally take for granted," such as athletics and extracurricular clubs.

Greenberg said he'd prefer to avoid that option in light of the current economic climate.

"We've been fortunate over the years with significant fundraising by groups such as Friends of Music to give those activities a boost at no cost to the district," he added.

Chairman John Laferriere criticized the state for its funding shortfalls.

"This is something that's been stuffed down our throats and we have no control over it," he said. "We've been prudent with managing our budget and managing our school district. To me, the state was not managing themselves very well."

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