GILFORD — The School Board has approved a $24,775,536 school budget, an increase of 2.74 percent ($677,164) over last year's budget and which includes a warrant article which calls for approval of $111,798 for the first year of a new three-year collective bargaining agreement with the Gilford Education Association.
Also included in the budget are a 3 percent raise for support staff, amounting to $73,858 and 2.75 percent for administrative employees, $27,746, which coupled with FICA and retirement costs of $20,321 add $121,925 to the proposed budget.
The board also identified two major projects that it wants to complete next year, a new $200,000 telephone system and $105,000 for auditorium seating.
Superintendent of Schools Kent Hemingway said that the three-year contract with teachers reflects $156,186 in health insurance savings in the first-year of the contract. Voters will be asked to approve a warrant article for $111,798 to fund the first year on the union contract when they vote next March. Increases in subsequent years are $257,911 in 2015-16 and $260,323 in 2016-17.
He said that there is good news in the form of budget reductions, including a $115,000 proposed premium holiday from the Local Government Center, a $33,270 reduction for life and disability insurance, a $13,306 decrease in worker's compensation insurance and lower heating oil costs amounting to $10,225.
Hemingway said that the staff reductions this year include an elementary school special education teacher at a cost of $64,527, a Gilford Middle School teacher at a cost of $42,287, part-time support staff at $11,48 coupled with $58,613 in benefit savings.
He said that staffing continues to reflect declining enrollment in Gilford schools, which has seen the number of students drop for 1338 in 2007 to 1194 this year, a drop of 144, or more than 10 percent. During that time certified staff have dropped from 132.2 to 119.6, a 10 percent drop while support staff have declined from 89 to 81.1, a 9 percent decrease.
The school board will make presentations on its budget to the town Budget Committee on Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. at the Gilford town office with a budget hearing scheduled on January 14 at Gilford High School.