DerryNews.com, Derry, New Hampshire

December 5, 2013

Londonderry school officials present budget

By Julie Huss
jhuss@derrynews.com

---- — LONDONDERRY — Last year, voters didn’t want to spend $4.5 million to renovate the district’s schools.

School officials hope to convince them to change their minds next year.

The district’s proposed fiscal year 2015 budget came before the School Board last week with little change from last year’s $66 million spending plan.

Next year’s proposed general fund number is $66.5 million, up less than 1 percent from the previous year.

Early budget planning proved challenging once again, superintendent Nate Greenberg said, due mostly to continuing state shortfalls in funding for adequacy and higher costs for retirement and health-care benefits for district employees.

Greenberg said that’s why it’s important to find ways to increase revenues to fill in those holes.

Londonderry already has some 60 Hooksett students to boost its tuition revenue. The district hopes to take additional students in the next several years. That could bring almost $1 million in added revenue to the district.

In addition to the general fund budget, there are five warrant articles headed for next year’s warrant, including a $4 million request to pay for renovations and construction of buildings in the district, if and when they are needed.

School officials said some district projects have been put on the back burner. This money would help keep the infrastructure on track and secure. Projects deemed important included paving and roofing projects.

Voters rejected a similar proposal last year.

Other articles for next year include two salary contracts, a capital reserve article. and a $500,000 maintenance trust funding request.

If the proposed budget and all articles are approved, taxpayers could see a 22-cent impact on their tax rate.

Business administrator Peter Curro said he had no requests for petitioned citizen warrant articles.

He agreed with Greenberg that it’s often a challenge to do a budget with less money.

“Revenues are dropping from the current year,” Curro said, “mostly at the state level.”

He said Londonderry has lost about $2 million in state adequacy funding in the past two years. That creates some big gaps to fill.

“And we really won’t know what adequacy is until we set our tax rate next year,” Curro said.

Greenberg said it’s a good budget . Administrators and staff are mindful of ways to save money every year, he said, including initiatives in energy savings, technology and by keeping students in-house for special education services when possible.

He cited the district’s many successes, including a low dropout rate, success at the college level, and 200 acres of well-maintained buildings and grounds.

Londonderry’s per pupil cost is below the state average, he said.

“I believe the community is getting an excellent return on their investment,” Greenberg said.

The budget season continues with workshops and public hearings. The next scheduled budget workshop is Dec. 5 at 7 p.m. in the School Board room at the town office complex.