DerryNews.com, Derry, New Hampshire

February 13, 2014

Derry meeting draws biggest crowd in years

School voters defeat move to trim spending

By Julie Huss
jhuss@derrynews.com

---- — DERRY — The school budget got smaller, but some residents wanted to see it shrink even more.

After the School Board announced it had reduced the proposed budget for next year, a small group of residents pushed to have even more slashed from the final number.

Approximately 230 of the town’s more than 20,000 registered voters, or just 1.1 percent, attended the annual school district deliberative session Saturday to hear details on next year’s proposed $80.5 million school budget. That number includes the district’s $2.5 million in food service and federal funds that are self-funded.

The budget is now $277,000 lower than a previous budget number released to the public, thanks to a recent tuition rate adjustment at Pinkerton Academy.

Pinkerton lowered its tuition rate to sending schools because an additional 106 Hooksett students are expected to attend the Derry high school next year.

High school tuition makes up 34 percent of the Derry district’s school budget.

School Board members told the audience that many tough decisions went into drafting the budget, including making sure the School Board goals were kept in mind when it came to spending money.

“The budget is driven by our strategic plan,” School Board member Dan McKenna said.

There will be an estimated drop in enrollment numbers that will result in a drop in state adequacy aid that is based on student numbers.

Derry stands to lose about $476,600 in state aid due to enrollment.

Based on that enrollment, the district will eliminate some positions, most of which will be lost through attrition.

Derry will save $495,000 as the West Running Brook Middle School bond is paid off this year.

But some residents wanted more cut from the budget. Resident Lynn Perkins spearheaded a budget amendment in an attempt to lower the budget to $79.8 million. That amendment was defeated, 165-68.

Others said the district should be doing more to save money.

“You’ve not been proactive,” resident Kevin Coyle told the School Board. “Our property values are the lowest in any surrounding town and we have the highest tax rate in southern New Hampshire and you do nothing.”

Last year, a small group of citizens supported a budget amendment to add $800,000 into the operating budget. Much of that money is left over and will go to offset the tax rate next year, school officials said.

The meeting lasted three hours and was one of the longest and most well attended in recent history, school officials said.

“We had a much larger turnout than last year,” McKenna said. “This is an important meeting and it’s for everyone to understand what budget will be on the ballot in March.”