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School administrators asked to cut $700k from budget

December 16, 2009
TILTON — Winnisquam Regional School District administrators have been asked by the district Budget Committee to shave approximately $700,000 from their proposed 2010-2011 budget.

The administration has until Jan. 8 to revise and resubmit an operating budget with a top limit of $22,165,000. That amount is about a 1.4-percent increase over the current budget and represents collective bargaining increases that can't be avoided, said Budget Committee Chairman Keith Murray.

"We (have been) hearing from the community, 'Look, this budget can't go up anymore,'" Murray said.

According to Murray, the original proposed 2010-2011 budget was approximately $1.3 million, or about 5 percent, higher than the $21,915,996 2009-2010 budget. Though the committee removed $304,452 for two new roofs from the proposed operating budget and moved those items to the capital budget, it still left a $1 million increase. Accounting for the collective bargaining increases, the committee asked administrators to rework the budget after three joint work sessions, "when it became really apparent that we had to significantly cut the budget," Murray said.

"We're not qualified to make the cuts that need to be made here," Murray said. "I'm not happy to turn the budget back over to the administration, but it's the responsible thing to do."

Administrators were asked to bring a revised budget back with $700,000 cut from the bottom line, along with a statement of explanation and of ramifications.

"Everything is justified," Murray said. "It's just a matter of prioritizing."

Winnisquam Business Administrator Cheryl Somma said that administrators have already been meeting to discuss potential cuts and will be going line by line to find savings and items that can be put off for now.

"The administration feels it's doable but is concerned about the costs to the students," Somma said.

Some of the items discussed include putting off a library software upgrade, athletic uniforms, and certain curriculum purchases.

"We're really looking everywhere," Somma said. "We want to limit the impact on students as much as we can."

Murray said that although he doesn't want to see staff positions cut, it may be necessary to get the budget down to $22,165,000. Some of the items that the committee has suggested as possible cuts include a $77,000 elementary science program and a $70,000 enrichment coordinator, as well as delaying some maintenance issues and technology upgrades.

One of the problems with cutting so much, Somma said, is that this will be the third year in a row where the budget has been held to minimal increases. Eventually, the expenses that are being put off will have to be added back into the budget, which could mean substantial increases over the next couple of years.

Somma also said that next year, administrators would like the Budget Committee and School Board to review the way the budget is prepared and hopes for a more streamlined process between the three parties.

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