October 30, 2008
school budget up again: $34.3M
By STEPHEN BEALE
GOFFSTOWN - The Goffstown School District is proposing a budget of $34.3 million for the next academic year.
Just two weeks ago the district was eyeing $34.6 million.
It has already decreased its estimate by about $370,000 because it has learned that its health insurance rates will go up by no more than 3.5 percent, instead of the 13.2 percent it initially forecasted.
“The Goffstown School Board is being aggressive in controlling costs while ensuring a challenging and appropriate education for all our children,” said School Board Chairman Keith Allard.
The budget approved for the current school year is $33,378,000. The proposed one is about $900,000 more, but is less than the default for next year, which is $34,642,986. The default budget is what was authorized for the previous year, plus any increases that are mandated by contract or law.
In a presentation to the School Board on Oct. 20, Superintendent Stacy Buckley said the budget was crafted taking into consideration the current economic climate and the need to maintain the programs and services Goffstown schools now have.
Several schools asked for new staff: a teacher’s aide at Bartlett Elementary School, costing $34,984; two new teacher’s aides at Maple Avenue Elementary School, $69,968; a parttime aide at the Glen Lake kindergarten, $6,831; and a dean of students at Mountain View Middle School, with a net cost of $40,021. The total cost of the dean is $83,000, but the district is suggesting that the district eliminate two other positions, including an educational aide and a student management specialist.
The district is seeing cost increases in fuel and staff benefits as well. Heating oil is slated at $4.30, a sharp contrast with the $2.50 rate budgeted for this year. The district also will now have to pay nearly 7 percent of teacher pay into their retirement plans. Previously, the district had been paying 5.5 percent.
“The Goffstown School District is currently implementing an aggressive fuel and utility savings plans at all five of the schools in an effort to save money,” Allard wrote in an email.
“We are once again looking to contract with Honeywell to perform an energy audit and recommend improvements that will pay for themselves in energy savings. This was done four years ago with significant success.”
He added that the district has even begun considering the possibility of installing wood pellet burners to supplement those fueled by oil. The pellet burners could result in savings of 30 percent over oil, according to Allard.
But he said there were some limits to what the School Board could do. He said a proposal to cut 10 percent from both the town and school budgets was “well-intended” but would be difficult for the school district to implement, since voters two years ago approved a multi-year contract for teachers with raises and benefits.
“The obligation to support these contracts accounts for the largest part of our budget increase,” Allard said. “To put this in perspective, a 10 percent cut in the budget would be nearly equal to terminating all the regular education teachers at Glen Lake, Bartlett and Maple Avenue. Even with this extreme example, we would not meet the 10 percent requested goal.”
Allard noted that the district saved taxpayers just over $2.2 million from its 2007-08 budget. Allard said the district accomplished this by developing some additional special education programs so it could bring some students back into the district, having health insurance rates lower than expected, and replacing staff with new hires at lower salaries.
Ray Labore, the business administrator for the school district, said the savings would offset the tax rate on the bills being mailed out this fall.