, Derry, New Hampshire

April 4, 2013

School officials ponder budget numbers

By Julie Huss

---- — DERRY — School officials will take a good look at the recently approved budget for next year to make sure the money is spent wisely.

That includes the extra $800,000 that was restored to the budget at this year’s deliberative session in February — money some hoped would save several staff positions set to be cut.

Last month, voters approved the $81.9 million school budget. A new paraprofessional teacher assistant collective bargaining agreement did not pass.

School Board members hope to start over again on a new contract.

“I am very disappointed it didn’t pass,” School Board Chairman Brenda Willis said. “(The assistants) work really hard and deserved the minimal increase included.”

Board member Dan McKenna agreed and said the proposed contract was fair. He was also disappointed voters didn’t support the union contract.

“We should reopen negotiations and we’ll have to go back to voters and ask for their approval on a new contract,” he said.

Derry Education Association president Meg Morse-Barry asked school officials to use a balanced approach when considering how to spend the budget money next year.

“I trust that balance will be the key word here,” she said. “How we spend it is important to me as a taxpayer and important for our kids. It’s finding the balance and then supporting how we go forward with that.”

Former School Board member Mark Beland told officials he hoped music and arts positions in the district’s schools would withstand any staff cuts.

“Taxpayers are hurting, but the kids are our future,” he said. “Where the ax falls, the cold steel falls through the arts departments first.”

School Board member Ken Linehan wants to save as much money as possible.

“I think it’s appropriate from my perspective that we direct the administration not to spend the entire $800,000,” he said.

Willis said it’s all about looking at everything in the budget, the staff, facilities and the taxpayers’ wallets.

“And we look at what’s best for the children,” she said.

School Board member Neal Ochs said it’s up to the board to help forge that balance so spending is done in the best interest of everyone.

“This is a good path to take,” Ochs said. “It shows respect and trust we have for our administration and leadership team, and it meets the needs of the school district and also meets the needs of taxpayers.”