Schools needed to cut $642k from original plan to produce tax cap friendly budget

LACONIA — The School Board unanimously passed a $30,924,058 budget last night for which will be presented to the City Council at its May 27 meeting. The plan covers the 2014-2015 fiscal year.

The amount to be raised by property taxes is up $568,244 which is the amount of increase allowable under the city's tax cap, or a 1.87-percent increase.

According to a presentation given to the School Board by Budget and Personnel Chair Scott Vachon, the board anticipated increases totaling $1,210,462 for next year and needed to cut $517,218 from the initial proposal and use $125,000 in contingency money.

The cuts were made by laying off two teachers, not hiring at least one position to replace teachers who are retiring, and by shifting some employees to different roles within the district. There was a reduction of one guidance councilor position at the middle school.

Major drivers of the original budget were an increase in the number of students entering kindergarten and going into the first grade and an increase in the number of students in the district who are eligible for the federal free-and reduced-price lunch program.

"Those students generally need a higher level of services," said Vachon who noted that in the last seven years there has been an increase of 19-percent in the number of students eligible for the program.

Some of the things the district was able to add were additional honors and Advanced Placement classes at the high school, two additional programs at the Huot Technical Center including Law Enforcement and a Resort and Recreation Management program.

The district increased the amount of on-site training for teachers and increased the capacity to integrate new technology.

After the budget is presented to the City Council, said Emond in the Budget and Personnel meeting, any changes requested by the council will come back to the Budget and Personnel Committee for discussion and revision.

The council does not have line item authority over the budget but must approve the bottom line.

In other school news, the school transferred a projected $126,105 savings in health insurance for this fiscal year into areas that were running short of money.

The two big drivers were a $20,000 natural gas overage and a $13,500 electrical overage at the high school. Money was also moved into special education and salaries for tutors.

Emond said the district underestimated the amount of natural gas the high school would use but noted that it was an unusually cold winter and there was no left over money in any of the school heating accounts.

He said he expected the increase in the electrical accounts because of the new Huot Technical Center but said it was less than the district thought it would be.