School Board will ask City Council for $710K increase for 2012-13 school year

  • Published in Local News

LACONIA — The Laconia School Board is looking at a $710,000 increase in spending for its 2012-13 budget, some $260,000 or nearly 27-percent less than the limit imposed by the city's property tax cap.

Superintendent of Schools Bob Champlin said that the major contributor to the budget increase is a $400,000 increase in employee health insurance costs, which is being brought about by a 7.7-percent increase in rates.

For the third straight year, the budget that will be ...

LACONIA — The Laconia School Board is looking at a $710,000 increase in spending for its 2012-13 budget, some $260,000 or nearly 27-percent less than the limit imposed by the city's property tax cap.

Superintendent of Schools Bob Champlin said that the major contributor to the budget increase is a $400,000 increase in employee health insurance costs, which is being brought about by a 7.7-percent increase in rates.

For the third straight year, the budget that will be submitted to City Council contains no cost of living or step increases for teachers and it also includes no increase in the number of full-time employees. Last year's budget was over $33-million.

An overview of the school budget was taken up by the School Board's Budget and Personnel Committee before last night's School Board meeting and Champlin will give the same presentation to the Laconia City Council Monday night, when he and City Manager Scott Myers will outline their respective budget proposals for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Champlin said that the school district made substantial cuts last year as 19 positions were eliminated either through retirement, or resignations while only two were added and that the number of full-time employees in the school district has dropped from 380 to 355.

He said that despite the reductions, the average class size in city schools remains close to the state average, 18.6 for the city compared to 18.7 for the state at the elementary level and 20.2 for the city and 19.9 for the state at the middle school level.

Champlin said that a new health insurance plan which teachers agreed to last year as part of a two-year collective bargaining agreement has brought down health insurance costs. He said that the family plan, which cost $24,558 in the 2010-11 budget dropped to $19,764 this year. It is pegged at $21,286 in the proposed 2012-13 budget and $20,222 in the 2013-14 budget.

He said that without the change in insurers, which was agreed to last year, the family plan costs were headed toward the $30,000 level.

School Board Chairman Bob Dassatti said that surrounding school districts, which have faced substantial increases in health insurance costs, have looked favorably on what Laconia has accomplished and are eying the same kinds of changes in their plans.

During the board meeting, member Mal Murray questioned what the impact might be on the Laconia School District from a competitive standpoint when other area school districts in the area are providing cost of living and step increases for teachers.

Champlin said that those issues would be on the table when the district negotiates with the teachers on a new contract in the months ahead. He noted that the major increases in health insurance costs taken on by teachers in other districts had negated much of the impact of any pay increases in those districts.

Other increased costs in the proposed budget include $150,000 for a capital reserve fund, $110,684 for the first year payment on the Huot Regional Technical Education Center renovation and expansion bond issue, $30,000 for transportation costs and $20,000 for a coordinator for the Wellness Academy which the district is required to establish as a result of having obtained a $6.5-million interest free federal loan for the Huot project and high school renovations and additions.

Champlin also highlighted energy savings costs and said that the had the School District not shifted to natural gas in all of the city schools, a program which started some 15 years ago, it would be paying $400,000 more than it is currently paying. He said that the school district's total bill for electrical and heating costs has actually dropped from $624,000 in 2006 to $601,000 in next year's proposed budget.

He said that the Middle School is also performing well in energy savings, costing only $1.15 per square foot to heat compared to $2.50 per square foot for a similar sized building which are not high performance energy buildings.

Chairman Dassatti said that the Laconia School District was honored last week by the Belknap County Economic Development Council at its annual meeting at Church Landing in Meredith, where it was presented with the Director's Award for its contributions to economic development through its community involvement in a host of initiatives.