DUNBARTON — The school board had a challenging year as it worked with the Goffstown and Bow school districts during the budgeting process, and as it prepares to transition many students between schools in September.
On Saturday, voters will be asked to approve the proposed $5,778,641 operating budget, which mostly reflects contractual obligations, tuition and special education costs. The annual School District Meeting takes place at 4 p.m. in the Community Center.
The budget and warrant articles, if approved, and an anticipated increase in revenues would mean a projected school tax increase of 47 cents per $1,000 assessed property value, or about $141 for a $300,000 home.
“Everything hinges on the unencumbered fund. How we finish out the year depends on how much we can lower the tax rate. We expect to have $400,000 left over, which is the same as last year. But we could see $500,000 and that could lower the tax rate 32 cents,” said school board member Jeff Trexler.
Last year, Dunbarton entered into a new AREA agreement with Bow, and the board has now budgeted for all students entering Bow Memorial and High schools, and those who chose to stay at Goffstown High School.
Middle school enrollment increased from 53 in 2013-14 to 64 for 2014-15, with the middle school tuition for 2014-15 of $656,832.
The number of high school students in 2013-14 was 124 students, with 118 students expected in 2014-15. The high school tuition for 2014-15 is $1,530,780, a cost of $11,789 per student at Bow High School and a cost of $12,904 per student at Goffstown High School.
The budget shows an increase of $110,145 in education programs at Dunbarton Elementary School, including $36,190 for technology purchases of staff replacement desktops, 10 Ipads with accessories, Apple laptop leases and Chromebooks with a cart.
“These purchases allow us to access the Internet more reliably and faster, which will be required with the new testing standards as well as keeping up with our students’ needs by integrating more technology into the curriculum. The need to maintain this technology has also increased,” said School Board Vice Chairman Deborah Trottier. “We want to maintain programs at the elementary school in addition to moving onward and upward.”
Budget increases also include a full-time reading specialist for $28,918, a paraprofessional to handle early intervention for students who may struggle with math for $24,793, the second year of the teachers contract and yearly support staff agreement at $32,544 in wages, $413,000 for technology services line to provide less down time of hardware and software, and $10,000 for eighth-graders to attend the Sargent Center at Bow Memorial School.
Dunbarton families paid for the program in sixth grade, but Bow students attend in eighth grade. To ease the financial impact on families, the school board will fund this activity for one year for those students who will go a second time in eighth grade. DES has planned an alternate experience for sixth-graders.
In addition, the Second Step program was replaced with an extra physical education special every other week, at an increase of $12,630.
Instructional programs for special education increased by 25 percent because more students have moved into town requiring one-on-one aides and services. Special education transportation decreased $57,602 because of less need and creative transportation efforts by the DES special education staff.
The main budget reductions include $61,521 in benefits in insurance and retirement adjustments, $16,899 for a bilingual educator, $5,200 for course reimbursement, $4,475 for the library line and $3,511 in the SAU services.
The school board will also present two warrant articles.
Article 4 proposes placing $31,570 into a capital reserve fund for legal expenses related to the Goffstown AREA dispute. This amount represents the tuition credit Dunbarton expects to receive next year from the Goffstown School District for previous rental charge overpayment. It is the second of two payments agreed to in the settlement, the first was placed into a building capital reserve fund last year.
Article 5 proposes placing $1,000 into the Kitchen Equipment Fund. This allocation is received annually by the Board of Selectmen, and the school board places $1,000 amount in the district’s budget.
Trottier said she hopes voters will approve the budget, “because it’s really important that we more than adequately provide for our students,” she said. “We’re very conservative with our budget at the elementary school.”