, Derry, New Hampshire

November 7, 2013

School officials talk early budget numbers

Proposed budget could fall from this year in Derry

By Julie Huss

---- — DERRY — The Derry school district’s budget work is underway with early numbers showing some savings for taxpayers.

The proposed budget for next year is approximately $81.2 million. That number includes $2.5 million for the self-funded food service and other federal programs.

School district business administrator Jane Simard said early numbers have been presented to the School Board and the Fiscal Advisory Committee, but are still subject to change.

But the first look at the 2014-2015 numbers are showing about $649,000 less than the current year’s budget.

Simard said the budget also shows about $1.5 million less in state adequacy aid.

“This was a first draft,” she said.

Simard said the School Board and the district’s Fiscal Advisory Committee have been meeting regularly to do the budget planning work.

She said the Fiscal Advisory group is a huge help at this time of year.

Members come from all walks of life, all levels of experience, Simard said, and are genuinely interested in the budget process and want to learn as much as they can.

“They are from very diverse backgrounds,” she said. “They are very articulate, very smart and give their perspective. I can’t say enough about the Fiscal Advisory Committee.”

Last year, voters approved a $81.9 million school budget. That final number came after a handful of residents voted to put $800,000 back into the budget during the annual deliberative session.

Derry, like many communities, faced state shortfalls in aid and had to pay more in retirement and health-care costs. Next year, Derry may save money in health and dental costs for its school staff.

Next year’s numbers show little change in staffing. Two teaching positions will be cut at Barka Elementary, but those jobs will be moved to other schools or grades so there will be no impact to the budget.

Simard said the district will see a savings of $495,000 as the West Running Brook Middle School bond will be paid off going into next year.

Two remaining bonds, a combination Derry Village School/South Range Elementary bond and a Barka Elementary/Gilbert H. Hood Middle School bond, won’t be paid off until 2020 and 2034, respectively.

The district still owes $16 million on those bonds, Simard said.

All budget items requested for next year support the School Board’s adopted Strategic Plan and goals including providing a safe environment for learning, to increase community involvement, to boost technology and to have all students learning at the best level possible.

“We look to the School Board to (give guidelines) where they want the budget to go,” Simard said. “That drives what the decisions are.”

Budget committee meetings will continue on Nov. 13, Nov. 18, Dec. 4, Dec. 11 and Dec. 18, all beginning at 6:30 p.m. in the Hood library. The public is welcome to attend.

Simard said it’s a long process, but always informative.

“Our mission is always to be fiscally sound and responsible, putting forth a budget that will suit the needs of students and staff,” she said, “and always being mindful of taxpayers and what the overall budget looks like.”

A public hearing on next year’s budget is scheduled for Jan. 21, leading up to the annual school deliberative session on Feb. 8, when voters can hear more details prior to voting in March at the polls.