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January 29. 2013 10:46PM

Warrant approved for Derry school meeting

DERRY - The school board recently approved the warrant for the annual school district meeting, which will be held at West Running Brook Middle School on Saturday, Feb. 2, at 10 a.m.

In addition to the budget for the 2013-14 school year and a new three-year contract for the district's educational assistants, the warrant will also have an article allowing a provision for the district to retain unassigned general funds.

The article was brought forward by Superintendent Laura Nelson earlier this month and is the result of a new law enacted by the Legislature that gives school districts the ability to retain an unassigned fund balance. Currently, the school district's entire unassigned fund balance is returned to the municipal coffers.

A yes vote will give the district the option of retaining up to 2.5 percent of the net assessment of the district in a fund, according to attorney Gordon Graham. The net assessment is the amount of money raised locally to support the school district.

According to Graham, the amount would be recalculated annually, and if the district wanted to use the funds, procedures would need to be followed to ensure checks and balances.

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, 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 by 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 them 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.

aswift@newstote.com


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