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Derry school officials say they're trying to cut costs

DERRY — During a public hearing Tuesday night on the proposed 2014-15 school budget, Superintendent Laura Nelson said administrators are studying ways to reduce costs because of concerns about rising taxes.

The Derry Cooperative School District’s proposed 2014-15 budget is $80,817,146.18, which is 1.37 percent below last year’s approved budget, according to school district officials.

The budget declined $1,086,544.36 from last year’s approved budget of $81,903,690. It also decreased $333,645.99 from the default budget of $81,150,792, said Jane Simard, business manager for the school district.

Part of the decrease can be attributed to the reduction of positions due to declining enrollment, according to school officials.

During Tuesday’s hearing at West Running Brook Middle School, some residents cited figures from the state that show a trend of declining enrollment at Derry schools.

While enrollment has decreased, taxes were up this year, with the combined school and state education rate increasing by 5.4 percent, according to officials.

Simard said in November that a reduction in state aid of over $1.5 million was responsible for 0.65 percent of the increase in the school rate.

Resident Lynn Perkins, who is on the Zoning Board of Adjustment, questioned why the school district isn’t taking more drastic steps to reduce costs as enrollment declines and taxes increase.

“It’s not that I want to see anybody get fired — I don’t want to see anybody in harm’s way,” Perkins said. “But I know that taxpayers have been sucker punched for a number of years.”

Nelson said the school district is aware of the declining enrollment and has a strategic plan in place to address cost reduction.

“I don’t want you to think that all of this has fallen on deaf ears this past year because it really hasn’t,” Nelson said.

Over the last year, administrators have proposed staff reductions and considered other cost-saving strategies.

They have also looked at possibly closing a school or redistricting.

The school district is studying demographic trends in town as it plans for the future, she said. This is an ongoing process and it will take time, Nelson added.

“It’s not going to happen overnight because we don’t have one part of Derry that has totally moved out that has the need to just close one school,” Nelson said.

The school district deliberative session is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 8, at West Running Brook.

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