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Derry voters to decide on $78.6 million school budget Feb. 2

Union Leader Correspondent

January 20. 2013 9:54PM

DERRY - The annual school district meeting is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 2, at 10 a.m. at the West Running Brook Middle School.

Items on the warrant for the meeting include the budget for the 2013-14 school year and a new three-year contract for the district's educational assistants.

The proposed $78.6 million budget is a 1.65 percent increase over the current year's budget.

There are cuts to 7.5 teaching positions in the budget, but due to declining enrollment, Superintendent Laura Nelson said the cuts should not have a major impact on educational services in the district. According to school board member Ken Linehan, the district's goal is to reach that number either through attrition or not filling open positions.

During the public hearing on the budget earlier this month, Nelson, district finance director Jane Simard, and school board chairman Brenda Willis were quick to point out that 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.

Taking a $600,000 increase in town costs for retirement, increased health care costs and mandates, and lower state adequacy numbers, Willis said the district was faced with nearly $4 million in increased costs this year.

The three-year contract for educational assistants will see the educational assistants get raises of 15 cents the first year, 15 cents the second year and 25 cents the third year.

Positions represented in the contract include educational assistants, special educational assistants, kindergarten assistants, library and computer assistants, and reading assistants.

The educational assistants began negotiating as a collective bargaining unit in 2000. The language in the contract has remained fairly constant over the past dozen years and has created greater equity between educational assistants in Derry and in other school districts.

Before 2000, educational assistants were largely seen as a temporary position that people moved on from quickly, according to Linda Hawkins, who has been an educational assistant in the system for 26 years.

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