, Derry, New Hampshire

November 29, 2012

Londonderry school officials ponder funding loss

Less funding, fewer students mean more challenges next year

By Julie Huss

---- — LONDONDERRY — A drop in enrollment and projected cuts in state adequacy funding may force the Londonderry School District to seek more ways to save money next year.

At a meeting last week, the School Board heard preliminary information on next year’s budget, including a 35 percent shortfall in the state’s share of retirement funding — $1.4 million less for Londonderry, a drop of $77,000 in vocational tuition money and $629,009 less in adequacy aid.

In addition, 179 fewer students are expected to attend school in the district next year.

More definite budget numbers were expected to be presented at a meeting this week.

“We received the news from the state about adequacy funding, significantly below what we anticipated,” Superintendent Nate Greenberg said. “This is a substantial reduction of state revenue.”

With the shortfalls in funding, Greenberg said the school district would have to make decisions to help keep the budget within reason, including possible cuts in staffing and supplies.

All efforts would be made to stay as true to the district’s mission to maintain class size, he said, while being aware of what residents pay in taxes every year.

“Our goals are to maintain programs, maintain class sizes, but delay certain initiatives,” Greenberg said. “We may reassign some responsibilities to some individuals to pick up the load.”

The goal is to bring in a budget proposal with a budget increase of less than 1 percent.

“I know we can do it, but it will be tight,” Greenberg said.

Voters approved a $64.7 million school budget last year.

Greenberg said one way to defer some losses is to consider bringing in tuition-paying students from other districts.

“A number of students have toured our high school and had some apply to attend our high school on a tuition basis,” he said.

School Board member John Robinson also suggested it may be time for the district to consider putting a price tag on the chance to play sports or take part in other activities, a “pay for play” approach.

“We ask parents a lot already,” Greenberg said. “I would like to avoid asking for more.”

It’s the 13th budget Greenberg will present as superintendent — and one of the most difficult.

“We are trying to stay away from reductions that will come back to haunt us years from now,” he said.

That includes making sure residents don’t see a tax rate going through the roof due to the school budget.

“I think we can make our way through this and come up with something that is positive,” Greenberg said.

School Board member Steve Young said it’s up to officials to do their homework and come up with a plan that is best for everyone.

“It’s going to be a big challenge and a busy season,” Young said.

The School Board meets again Dec. 4 at 7 p.m. at the Londonderry Town Hall.