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Salem to vote on 3.78% more for schools on March ballot; 100 fewer students expected to be enrolled

Union Leader Correspondent

February 09. 2018 2:05PM

SALEM — Voters at Thursday night’s school deliberative session retained the school district’s proposed $71.9 million budget, which will now appear on the March 13 ballot.

Unanimously recommended by the Budget Committee and School Board, the proposed budget would increase property taxes 1.98 percent, or $78.18 for someone living in a $300,000 home. Of the $71,977,817 figure approved, about $59 million will be paid by Salem taxpayers.

Approximately 150 residents turned out for the 50-minute deliberative session at Salem High School. The largest budget increase was for staff benefits, which included $1.2 million more for health insurance alone, a 9 percent increase, and $130,000 to fund pensions.

The budget included $125,000 more for transportation and $331,000 in tuition costs for out-of-district placements.

Other new costs include $119,523 for two high school custodians, $103,117 for a cosmetology instructor, $27,658 for an additional literacy specialist and $15,649 for marketing the Career and Technology Center.

Several decreases were presented as well, including $155,000 less interest to be paid on debt and $206,000 less for tuition-related costs. There’s also a $300,000 infrastructure grant to help offset costs.

Proposed enhancements at Grant Field and other related athletic fields were put on hold.

Bernard Campbell, chairman of the School Board, said the district’s goal is to improve the delivery of instruction, including nontraditional methods, with a priority on literature and mathematics. There is an ongoing effort to fund and promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“We will infuse technology into every aspect of how the Salem School District operates and delivers services to students in the learning process, to teaching staff in the instructional process, to administrative staff in the way we do business and to the community in outreach and informational efforts,” Campbell said.

No revisions were made to the budget, nor were any changes made to a secondary article to approve a collective bargaining agreement with the Salem Educational Association (SEA). That three-year deal provides the 327-member union 2.25 percent annual raises through the 2020-2021 school year. The salary increase totals slightly more than an additional $1 million annually throughout the duration of the contract.

If both articles are successful, it brings the total tax increase to 3.78 percent.

There were only two questions from the audience during the brief deliberative session. The first was about food service costs — most of which are part of a self-funding program — and the other about the current student population. Enrollment in October 2017 was 3,543 and is projected to be about 100 fewer students for 2018.

Voting for Salem’s school and town elections will take place from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on March 13 at five different locations in town: Fisk School, Soule School, Barron School, Ingram Senior Center and North Salem School.

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