LACONIA — With the school district facing a projected $480,000 shortfall, the administrators told the Budget and Personnel Committee last night that it is likely they will have to tap into the Special Education Trust Fund.
Committee members didn’t discuss specific programs that may be cut or reduced but all agreed there would be no “sacred cows.”
School board member Mike Persson suggested having students pay a fee for athletic programs, having the district seek more public-private partnerships and engage in more aggressive grant seeking.
After scouring the budget, administrators moved $162,000 from some accounts to others mostly buffing up the salary lines for special education needs in the elementary and middle schools. They also transferred $118,000 from some maintenance lines into others.
Of the 183 students that have moved into the district since August, Superintendent Phil McCormack said nearly 30 percent of them have special education needs. On the other hand, of the 184 students who have left the school district, about 20 percent had special education needs he said.
He said in one school alone about 50 percent of the new students were somehow classified as needing special assistance. When asked, McCormack said the new students are coming from all over the state and the country.
“We’ve been here before,” said member Chris Guilmett. “You can have one child need $300,000 of [assistance.]”
While preparing for this year’s budget, the school district operates on a fiscal year rather than a calender year, no money was deleted from the special eduction trust.
McCormack said administrators have imposed a “soft” spending freeze, meaning that only the necessities are being purchased. Of concern to the committee members is some reduction of teacher training because the district has tried to cut down the need for substitute teachers.
Committee members suggesting looking at overtime in building maintenance, teacher supplies, new equipment, adult education and computer accounts.
As the district continues to move forward with the 2016-2017 budget, Business Administrator Ed Emond said that if the same budget services are to be performed next year as this, the district is looking at a $1 million shortfall.
“The storm clouds are gathering,” said McCormack, who noted that the amount of money the school district has for next fiscal year under the city tax cap is limited to about $250,000 to $300,000. He said the Consumer Price Index Urban is flat, meaning there was no significant inflation in the country this year and there was about $9 million in building permits issued in the city in the past fiscal year.
The city tax cap limits the new amount of money to be raised by inflation rates, measured by the CPIU, and the amount of increased property values for “captured” value.
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