Keene school board boosts budget
The board presented a $62,333,572 budget Tuesday that included approximately 10 staff cuts to curb increases.
Voters will have a chance to discuss the now-$62,386,947 budget and amend it themselves if they choose at the deliberative session planned for Saturday, Feb. 9.
The new proposed budget is only a 0.85-percent increase from last year, but represents an estimated 5.8-percent impact on property taxes, said Ann Szot, vice chairwoman of the board.
Szot said the proposed staff cuts were an attempt by the school board to prevent several budget hikes out of the board's hands totaling $1.4 million: a $350,000 increase in health insurance costs, a $725,000 increase in salaries as part of the current collective bargaining contract, and a $740,000 increase in the district's payment to the state Retirement System.
Additionally the district is losing about $250,500 in state adequacy aid.
"Basically, the state has walked away from providing the students of New Hampshire an adequate education," Szot said.
Tuesday night, the board decided to add several proposed staff positions back into the budget after listening to about three hours of public input, Szot said.
The board listened to voters who said they wanted the new Gifted and Talented Program, costing $85,000 for one full-time position with benefits and program supplies, cut in order to save physical education, art and music teacher jobs at the three smaller elementary schools.
The school board said the "specials" teachers from the two larger elementary schools could teach at the smaller schools, but voters said those teachers fill various roles in their schools and it would take away from the programs at the schools while the Gifted and Talented Program would be for a small percentage of students.
"At Tuesday's meeting, there was huge outcry, so they cut the Gifted and Talented coordinator and they said the money that was saved would restore the elementary school positions," Szot said.
The board also restored a full-time school nurse position at Keene High School. Not all of the public's wishes were granted, though, Szot said.
"They don't want us to cut any staff or services, but in the same breath they are saying, 'But don't increase our taxes, 'cause we can't pay any more.'"
Many of the part- and full-time positions remain on the chopping block, including several positions at the high school: athletic director, math, science, school counselor, social studies, special education, English, health and world language teachers.
"Even though we're cutting, we're trying our best to do it through retirement and attrition," Szot said.
Two part-time positions, a French and a Spanish teacher, that make up the fifth-grade language program remain cut. The $37,000 program is small, not even equaling a full-time position, Szot said, but the board feels it has too little impact. Perhaps an after-school program could replace it, she said.
"Just because we cut world language doesn't mean we don't think it's important," Szot said. "We can't have everything we want. We just can't. We can't afford it. Just like in your own home budget."
Three new positions at the high school, though, are in the proposed budget: two reading teachers and a substance abuse counselor.
The board is trying to balance doing its best for students while not causing property taxes to go up, Szot said.
If voted down, the default budget would be over $1 million higher at $63,490,613.
"If our budget fails, peoples' taxes will go up, which is odd," Szot said. "But we're trying to keep our budget down. It is a conundrum."
READER COMMENTS: 0
- West junior advising College Board on its entrance exams - 0
- Sullivan in the top running for state's Assistant Principal of the Year - 0
- Pinkerton community excited about relationship with Google - 2
- Manchester school chief's contract extended, with raise linked to teachers' - 1
- New superintendent named in Lebanon - 0
- Board of Ed finds in favor of Goffstown; Dunbarton plans Supreme Court appeal - 2
- Tech conference sparks ideas and imagination - 0
- Nashua assessment tests miss the mark - 1
- St. A's board of trustees responds to criticism of graduation change - 2
READER COMMENTS: 0
- 2014 top 10 list of wage and hour - 0
- Thumbs-up for Ebert's winner - 0
- It's Central, Merrimack - 0
- Goal: Stay healthy - 0
- Year in review: A look back at NH's top stories - 0
- Indecent proposition from New London chief was 'chilling' says victim - 0
- Details of Reams inquiry released - 0
- New Hampshire police part of funeral for slain NYC officer - 0
- Workers' rally to bring back Artie T. captured public's heart - 0
Thoughts as we move from one year to another
Bow goes to shootout to defeat Concord
Merrimack teen allegedly held girl captive