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North Country towns hold line on school budget

Special to the Union Leader

January 30. 2013 9:59PM

GORHAM - When residents of three North Country towns go to the annual meeting of the Gorham Randolph Shelburne Cooperative School District, they will vote on a proposed operating budget that is less than one percent higher than the budget under which the district is running this school year.

The school board is asking for an appropriation of $8,016,912 for the 2013-14 school year, up .43 percent, or $34,222 from the current year's budget of $7,982,690. When warrant articles are included, that increase shrinks to .21 percent, or $18,168.

This despite the challenge the district faced as the administration and board put the budget and warrant articles together.

Paul Bousquet, superintendent of SAU 20, said Wednesday the top challenges this budget cycle were reduced revenue from lower end-of-the-year balance projections; reduced state Adequacy Aid; and an increase in retirement contributions by the district. He added that Milan, which is a part of the SAU but not a member of the cooperative, is seeing an increase in tuition payments for the students it sends to Berlin Junior High School and Berlin High School.

"We have a construction bond in the GRS Cooperative that has a reduced payment for this year due to the reduced principal and interest," Bousquet explained. The district also instituted deductibles to keep health insurance costs down. Bousquet said that fuel oil consumption at the Edward Fenn Elementary School was also down.

The Lincoln Woodstock Cooperative School District is operating on a budget of $6,588,000 for the 2012-2012 fiscal year.

"The proposed budget for the 2013-2014 school year is $6,665,000," Judith McGann, superintendent of SAU 68 said. "At this time, the district has two major drivers of the increase, the New Hampshire Retirement System and health insurance. Woodstock is losing approximately $22,000 in state aid for the current year, and approximately $150,000 for the 2013-14 school year."

Corinne Cascadden, superintendent of SAU 3 in Berlin, also mentioned the jump in employer contributions to the state retirement system as a driver for budget increases. And, though the cuts in Adequacy Aid grants don't show up as an increase in expenditures, getting less state aid does make a difference in the local school tax rate.

Cascadden said Berlin's grant was cut this year, but that the North Country legislators are working to restore it.

Among the school districts slated to get less for their Adequacy Aid this year than originally announced, are: Berlin, cut by $93,102; Clarksville $11,226; Colebrook $13,040; Tamworth $24,800; GRS $11,761, Milan $12,288; Bath $5,271; Bethlehem $14,942; Profile Regional $13,732; Lisbon Regional $7,246; White Mountain Regional $12,439; Lincoln-Woodstock Coop $21,234; and Littleton $54,494.

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