MEREDITH — The Inter-Lakes School Board presented a budget of $22,715,206 for 2015-2016, which represents an increase of $648,073, or 2.94 percent, at a pubic hearing at the high school auditorium earlier week.
In a separate warrant article, voters will also be asked to approve the cost items included in the collective bargaining agreement negotiated with the Inter-Lakes Education Association (ILEA), which represents the 112 individuals, or 104.8 full-time equivalents, employed by the district. The salary schedule would be increased by 2 percent and employees would advance one step on the salary schedule in each of the two years of the agreement. The average increases would be $2,178, or 3.73 percent, in 2015-2016 and $2,190, or 3.6 percent in 2016-2017. The total cost of the increased salaries and benefits would be $222,233 in the first year and $306,612 in the second year.
Furthermore, the agreement would double the stipend for professional development from $1,200 to $2,400 to encourage staff to seek masters degrees. The life insurance term policy would be raised from $10,000 to $50,00 and the maximum annual benefits of the dental plan would rise from $1,000 to $1,250.
In one of the few comments from the public, Karen Sticht said that increased budget, particularly the compensation and benefits of employees, "seem just outrageous to me". The district, she claimed, "is one of the highest paid school districts in New Hampshire." That prompted Richard Hanson, chairman of the board to immediately reply "and we are one of the best schools districts in New Hampshire."
Superintendent Mary Ellen Ormond said that the replacement of the roof at Inter-Lakes Elementary School, costing $340,000, was the single largest expenditure contributing to the growth of the budget, followed by increases in contributions to the New Hampshire Retirement System of $119,581, heath insurance premiums of $67,761, and special education tuition of $64,600.
Proposed increases in expenditures, together with a reduction of $86,543 in revenue represent an increase of $734,616 in the amount to be raised by property taxes, which would raise the net tax burden from $20,532,902 in 2014-2015 to $21,267,518 in 2015-2016, an increase of 3.6-percent. Approval of the collective bargaining agreement with the ILEA would add $222,233 to these totals, increasing the net tax burden in 2015-2016 to $21,489,751, an increase of 4.6-percent.
The total amount to be raised by property taxes is offset by an state adequacy grant to Meredith of $248,981 and an allowance for forest land of $7,706, leaving $21,524,205 to be apportioned between the three towns. Meredith bears approximately 73 percent of the cost, Sandwich 14 percent and Center Harbor 13 percent.
NOTE: Carol Baggaley, who represents Center Harbor on the Inter-Lakes School Board, expressed concern that she is retiring from the board and no one filed for election to fill the open seat, leaving Center Harbor without a representative. John Hanson, chairman of the board, said that the seat could be filled by a write-in candidate and failing that the board would invite applicants for the position and appoint a member to serve a one-year term with the opportunity to run for election in 2016 to serve the remaining two years of the term. "There is precedent," he said.