HOOKSETT — Town Administrator Dean Shankle and Superintendent Charles Littlefield met with the Budget Committee Thursday night to give a preliminary overview of the town and school budgets they are developing for next year.
Saying he had good news and bad news, Littlefield told the committee that while the expected transition from the Manchester School District to Pinkerton Academy will likely involve relatively stable costs per student, he added that he expects tuition costs will go up and the transition costs themselves will be substantial.
“Add up what was historically paid to Manchester, and what our per pupil cost was taking into account capital costs, we may very well find that Pinkerton is lower priced than Manchester will have been. I don’t know yet. However I think that the transition is going to be expensive,” Littlefield told the committee.
He added that he expects Pinkerton’s tuition, which he said would not involve capital costs, will be relatively close to $10,200 per student, which is roughly what the district will pay Manchester next year per student as well. Currently, Hooksett pays Manchester roughly $8,500 per student.
“The good news and the bad news is that Pinkerton Academy’s tuition is among the lowest in the state, lowest 20 percent in the state. However, historically we have had with Manchester one of the lowest tuition rates in the state, so there will be a cost increase there,” Littlefield said.
Littlefield added that he is currently in negotiations with Pinkerton to be the district’s anchor school and the Bow, Pembroke and Londonderry school districts to be satellite schools.
“There has been a sense from parents that they would like to see some limited choice from whatever plan is developed, that is probably more difficult to accomplish than it may seem, but the model developed by the School Board is interesting and unique despite how painful it has been to create,” Littlefield said.
Other budget items sure to incur an increased expense include revisiting technology purchasing, which Littlefield said has fallen behind. He added that health insurance costs, which he called the bane of the school district’s experience, have not yet been set.
“Next year there will be no increase in the employer’s contribution to the state retirement system. However, special education costs are a moving target, they depend on who is in the community, their needs and placement. I expect it to be up, but we are still working on it,” Littlefield said.
“We are not nearly as far along in the budget process as (the school district) is due to timing. We are out a ways before we have any definitive answers on anything. We haven’t even seen preliminary budgets yet, though we have been discussing it,” Shankle said.
Shankle, Littlefield and the committee also discussed making a conscious effort on behalf of all departments in town to reduce the number of warrant articles that will appear on the ballot when voters go to the polls.
“We are trying to figure out what the voters want (so they don’t vote for another default budget),” Budget Committee Chair Marc Miville said.