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Proposed school district budget increase the lowest in 10 years

KYLE PLACE describes his project to Assistant Superintendent Heather Cummings (left) and Carpenter School Principal Jan Brooks at the Dec. 2 Governor Wentworth Regional School District board meeting last Monday. (Heather Terragni photo) (click for larger version)
December 05, 2013
WOLFEBORO — The Governor Wentworth Regional School Board reviewed the preliminary 2014-15 school year budget at its meeting this past Monday evening, Dec. 2, at Carpenter School in Wolfeboro.

Head of the Finance Committee Jack Widmer presented what he said was a very responsible budget.

The budget reflects, "One of the lowest increases in the past 10 years," Widmer said, "and at the same time it accomplishes what is needed for our students."

The budget process is both a business plan and a balancing act with the students' wellbeing and success the goal of the process, explained Widmer. However, he said, the school board is depended on to bring forward a fiscally responsible budget for the district's taxpayers.

Several key factors were considered during the budget process, such as declining enrollment numbers, the community's interest in full-day kindergarten, economic difficulties over the past few years, the continuation of quality programs and services, and protecting the district's current assets.

As in years past the total overall increase comes in well below the current Consumer Price Index (CPI) of 1.6 percent.

The proposed fiscal year 2015 budget shows an increase in the general fund of only .91 percent or $407,667 and an overall increase in local funds including all warrant articles of .97 percent or $457,667.

The proposed bottom line totals $47,844,277. This includes expanding the kindergarten program to a full-day at each elementary school and expense increases in areas such health services, water and sewer, and replacement furniture. A significant decrease in cost is attributed to electricity due to increased energy efficiency and town rates combined.

Employee costs constitute the largest portion of the budget and therefore show the largest increase in the general fund budget.

While the budget does include a reduction in the total number of professional staff due to declining enrollment numbers across the district, Widmer was confident that the majority of the reduction would come through natural staff attrition.

Given the above factors, the anticipated overall impact on the district assessment is expected to be 3.42 percent. Assuming there is no change in local property valuations the tax rates for each town will increase slightly. The estimated school district tax rates are as follows: Brookfield, 11.72; Effingham, 12.78; New Durham, 13.86; Ossipee, 10.29; Tuftonboro, 5.86; and Wolfeboro, 7.27.

There are only two proposed warrant articles for consideration.

The first is the Capital Improvements warrant article, funds from which are used to provide a safe and healthy environment for students and protect the district's assets. In recent years while the expansion project was occurring the district had lowered this annual article by $50,000; however, now with the expansion project completed the board would like to once again raise and appropriate $200,000 for needed and often unanticipated repairs throughout the district.

The second warrant article asks voters to approve setting aside $60,000 in the capital reserve fund established last year for the eventual replacement of the artificial turf athletic field. With a life expectancy of approximately 12 years and a replacement cost of about $700-750,000 the board would like to avoid hitting taxpayers with a huge onetime expense by saving up little by little each year until replacement of the artificial turf field is necessary. The board is proposing again to fund the account with monies from the unreserved fund balance.

In conclusion Widmer surmised that the fiscal year 2015 proposed budget supports quality programs while at the same time keeps the budget increase very reasonable for taxpayers. The default budget represents the finance committee's frugalness when creating the budget by topping the proposed general fund budget by almost a quarter of a million dollars.

A final budget review and adoption will be held during the board's next scheduled meeting, Monday, Jan. 6 in the Kingswood Regional High School Lecture Hall, beginning at 7 p.m.

The District's Deliberative Session will be on Saturday, Feb. 1 at 10 a.m.

This meeting can be viewed in its entirety at wolfeborocommunitytelevision.com.

Martin Lord Osman
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