By Julie Huss
---- — DERRY — Fewer than one half of 1 percent of the registered voters turned out for the Derry School District deliberative session Saturday.
But those 83 people made a pretty significant decision: They voted, 49-34, to restore $800,000 to the proposed budget.
The proposed budget is now $81,903,691, which includes the self-funded food service and other federal programs. The number reflects a 1.65 percent increase over the current year.
The restoration of $800,000 likely would save 14 positions that were going to be cut next year, including teachers, maintenance, assistants and one secretary.
Part of the budgeting dilemma was based on less money coming to Derry in state adequacy aid. The district also saw increases in retirement and health-care costs.
Many residents, including local teachers, spoke in favor of keeping the jobs the board had decided to cut.
Derry Education Association president Meg Morse-Barry said it was vital to keep the positions.
“Cutting positions will affect the quality of education in Derry,” she said. “There will be larger classes. We will go from the highest standards to just adequate.”
School Board member Ken Linehan said the board did everything it could to save money and staff.
“We did not take these cuts lightly,” he said. “We believe they will not have an impact on the quality of education of the students.”
Some cuts would force unified arts professionals like music and art teachers to share time between schools, he said.
Walter Deyo served on the district’s fiscal advisory committee and said it was hard work planning next year’s budget. He said everyone did a good job considering the financial challenges.
“You’ve got to be fair about things,” he said. “But there are people out of work, on Social Security. They deserve a bit of a break on their taxes.”
Other budget increases came from a tuition rate increase at Pinkerton Academy. Pinkerton will charge Derry and its other contracted towns $10,292 per student, a 2.76 percent increase over the current year, or $276.70 more.
Derry will send about 123 fewer students to Pinkerton next year.
But cuts from Concord hit the hardest.
Teacher Wendy Mahoney said the town should get more help at the state level.
“We need (someone) to fight for us in Concord,” she said, “to receive this funding back.”
Sen. Jim Rausch, R-Derry, said school districts will see less state funding due to lower enrollment numbers. He said Derry’s representatives are working hard.
“Derry has had a 20 percent increase in adequacy in the last 10 years, due to the work of your legislators,” Rausch said. “But you have less children, that equals less adequacy. That’s how it works. I wrote the formula. Don’t blame your legislators for the lack of adequacy.”
A warrant article on a new three-year collective bargaining agreement between the district and the AFSCME teacher assistants’ union will move to the ballot in March.
The new contract will give workers a 15-cent raise the first year, 15 cents the second year and 25 cents the third year.