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January 08. 2013 10:31PM

Derry School Board presents budget plan at hearing

DERRY - The school board held a public hearing Tuesday night on a proposed $78.6 million budget for the 2013-14 school year, a 1.65 percent increase over the current year's budget.

The budget sees cuts to 7.5 teaching positions throughout the district, but due to declining enrollment numbers, superintendent Laura Nelson said the cuts should not impact educational services.

Board member Ken Linehan said the district's goal is to reach that number either through attrition or not filling open positions.

But, Derry Education Association president Meg Morse-Barry said the school board and the community have to take a look at how those cuts will impact the future of education in the town.

Considering that the district cut 60 positions two years ago, she said the additional pruning will have an impact on class size.

"People move to Derry because they want a quality education," said Barry. "If we keep cutting staff and increasing class size, that's cutting into the quality education Derry is known for."

However, resident Lynn Perkins said Derry and school districts across the state need to look at what is really necessary in school budgets and asked if it might be time to look at mandated programs that are unnecessary.

During the public hearing, Nelson, district finance director Jane Simard, and board chair Brenda Willis said the district has been hamstrung by the state shifting more New Hampshire Retirement System costs onto towns and lowering the amount of state adequacy that helps fund the school budget.

A $600,000 increase in town costs for retirement, increased health care costs and mandates and lower state adequacy numbers left the district facing nearly $4 million in increased costs this year, said Willis.

"These are really dire times to look at how we are going to get money to operate our schools," said Nelson.

During the budget process, Nelson said the goal was to address the strategic goals of the district and provide a quality education for its students while respecting the taxpayers of Derry.

"We're trying to do the best we can for our students and our staff and we're trying to do the best we can for the community," said Willis.


aswift@newstote.com


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