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Joyce Endee

WRSD officials keep budget increase to a minimum

February 29, 2012
TILTON — The school board and budget committee for the Winnisquam Regional School District held a public hearing last week to present the proposed $23,$23,882,438 operating budget for the 2012-13 school year.

District officials were pleased to announce that it contains only a $23,691 increase, which represents a mere 0.11-percent tax impact on the three towns within the district.

Budget committee Chairperson Nina Gardner said the process of developing the budget proposal this year was made easy through the combined efforts of the school board, administration and her committee, and there were minimal differences between the three.

"We're very fortunate to be in the district where we are for all the cooperation that has taken place," Gardner said.

While the budget committee did make some minor cuts to the school board's proposal, for the most part, both sides were very close in their numbers. Gardner said the one thing that drives the WRSD budget is the indebtedness of the district, which has more buildings to maintain than many other school districts. WRSD, she said, is striving to maintain the facilities it owns in a cost effective manner to help keep expenses down.

"Right now, the Honeywell project has never looked smarter," she said. "We're sitting in a much better place because of it, and that was all a citizen involved initiative by Ian Raymond."

So far, the biomass heating plant for the high school and middle school, which is part of that project, has saved the district $275,583.

Revenues, she reported, are down somewhat, and are one reason for any increase seen in the new budget.

One cut the committee made was to eliminate a proposal for a new technology specialist. They also reduced the expense for a full time school resource officer by allowing for only $64,580 of the $74,580 the school board recommended.

"We chose to reduce the SRO salary because the school board has no say on who Tilton sends us," said budget committee member Leif Martinson. "We'd be more comfortable if the school board was involved in that process."

He added that salaries for the Tilton Police Department were higher than the other towns, and it didn't seem fair to pay the higher salary rate. Because the high school and middle schools, which share the one officer, lie in the town of Tilton, the officer comes from that jurisdiction.

The overall tax impact for the operating budget as written would mean Sanbornton would incur an increase of $0.61 per $1,000 assessment. Northfield's increase comes in at 60.5 cents, with a 10.4 cent increase going to Tilton taxpayers. According to the current formula being used to divide expenses in the district, any warrant articles calling for additional funding would see Northfield picking up 43-percent of those costs, Sanbornton 26-percent and Tilton 30-percent.

While the operating budget has no increase for teachers' salaries, a warrant article will ask voters to approve a cost item included in the collective bargaining agreement for $21,566 in salaries and benefits. That expense would add an additional one cent per thousand in each town.

School board Chair Michael Gagne said teachers would receive a one time only bonus of $1,000, and would move up one step on their current scale. The money would help with their increases for out of pocket expenses stemming from changes in their insurance plans and could actually mean a savings of $149,000 next year.

"The insurance change to the district is significant, and I urge people to support this article," Gagne said.

Article 3 will ask voters for $291,058 to establish a fulltime kindergarten program for the fall of 2012. School Superintendent Dr. Tammy Davis said the administration has been discussing the idea of fulltime kindergarten since 2009. The program would help boost reading skills in young children. Davis said studies show a lack of these early skills can lead to 80-percent of learning disabilities later in a child's education.

"Through our discussions, we decided it deserved the consideration of voters in the district this year," Davis said.

Acceptance of the proposal would mean an initial output of $46,000 to establish the program, $1,800 for supplies and $207,000 for staffing. It would convert Union Sanborn's program from part time to full time and add one additional teacher to Sanbornton Central School. No building modifications would be necessary and the following year the program would be reduced to $244,048 for operations.

Friends of Winnisquam Football is asking for $18,000 to assist them with the football programs of the middle and high school. Tim Snow represented the FOWF and said the money is needed this year to help with mandatory replacement of safety equipment as well as game officials, transportation, emergency personnel and training equipment. The remainder of the expenses will be raised by FOWF. In the past the FOWF has been able to raise $19,000 a year through gate fees and fundraisers, which has maintained the two teams and the cost of running the program.

"We wouldn't ask for a check for $18,000. We would submit invoices for approved purchases to the school board," Snow said.

He further clarified that this would be a one time only appropriation for the teams.

The Winnisquam Regional School District will hold their annual meeting to discuss and vote on the matters contained within the warrant on Saturday March 24, 9 a.m., at the high school on W. Main Street in Tilton.

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