By DAVID CARKHUFF/THE LACONIA DAILY SUN
MEREDITH — Rising health insurance rates and a shift in the cost of retirement pay factor into a 1.58 percent increase, for $377,928 more in the budget, for Inter-Lakes Cooperative School District, officials report.
A public hearing on the 2017-2018 budget will be held on Wednesday, Feb. 8, at 6 p.m. in the Inter-Lakes Community Auditorium. The deliberative session for Inter-Lakes School District's annual School District Meeting will be held on Wednesday, March 8, at 7 p.m. in the Robert F. Pottle Gymnasium at Inter-Lakes High School.
The school district has budgeted $24,317,116 for the general fund operational budget, which represents an increase of $377,928 or 1.58 percent from the previous year's budget of $23,939,188, according to the budget.
The health insurance guaranteed maximum rate increase is 12.6 percent, more than triple last year's 5.3 percent hike (the school district budgeted for a 5.76 percent increase last year). Cost of this increase is $405,762.
"That seems to be the trend. Health insurance costs are significant," said Superintendent Mary Moriarty.
"The New Hampshire Retirement System withholding percentage for teachers has increased from 15.67 percent to 17.36 percent and for employees from 11.17 percent to 11.38 percent," the district explained in an online guide (http://www.inter-lakes.k12.nh.us/images/stories/documents/district/schoolboard/Inter-lakes_2017-2018_Budget_Hearing_Packet.pdf). "This accounts for an overall increase of $162,927 or 10.17 percent. Five retirement incentives included in the budget for three teachers and two administrators for a total of $251,984."
Health insurance and the retirement cost shift "are two factors that influence your overall bottom line," Moriarty said.
On the revenue side of the ledger, declining enrollment in parts of the district will affect property tax appropriations.
Enrollment has dropped in a decade from 1,251 students to 1,016 students, the district reported. Enrollment is a component of average daily membership and residence, a factor along with property assessments behind the property taxes assessed to district residents.
"Like many New Hampshire communities, we continue to experience a change in our enrollment," Moriarty said.
Center Harbor's net assessment dropped by $237,768 for 2017-2018.
For the owner of $200,000 in assessed valuation, taxes will decrease by $92.52 in Center Harbor; increase by $133.70 in Meredith; and increase by $32.20 in Sandwich, according to the district budget.
Enrollment declines are nothing new. Two years ago, officials at Sandwich Central School reported a 15-year drop from 99 students to 60 students by 2012-2013. In 2014-2015, the school rebounded to an enrollment of 79 students, but enrollment remains an issue today.
A decade ago, in 2006-2007, the numbers in average daily membership were 141.21 in Center Harbor; 908.58 in Meredith; and 145.69 in Sandwich, according to state numbers. By October 2016, Center Harbor average daily membership and residence was 92.47; Meredith's was 812.69; and Sandwich's was 119.95. A year earlier, the average daily membership and residence was 104.85 in Center Harbor; 774.86 in Meredith; and 129.68 in Sandwich, according to state figures.
As a partial factor behind property taxes, average daily membership fluctuations mean varying levels of taxation in the district.
In 2014-2015, Center Harbor's net assessment was $2,812,344; Meredith's net assessment was $15,699,356; and Sandwich's net assessment was $2,981,718. In 2017-2018, those figures changed to $2,639,697 in Center Harbor; $17,079,205 in Meredith; and $3,100,311 in Sandwich, according to the budget.
Articles in the Inter-Lakes School District include Article 3, the collective bargaining agreement between the Inter‐Lakes School Board and the Inter‐Lakes Support Staff Association, which calls for the increases in salaries and benefits at the current staffing levels as follows: 2017‐2018: $189,513; 2018‐2019: $108,627; 2019‐2020: $114,939; and 2020‐2021: $121,679. The article also seeks to raise and appropriate $189,513 for the 2017‐2018 fiscal year in the additional costs attributable to the increase in salaries and benefits. The association represents 74 people, six full‐time and 68 part‐time. Over four years, through 2021, cumulative salary and fixed costs will be $511,372; stipends and fixed costs will total $21,261; health insurance savings will be $5,876; and professional improvement costs will be $8,000, for a total cost of $534,757, according to the budget.
Article 5 is the collective bargaining agreement between the Inter‐Lakes School Board and the Inter‐Lakes Education Association which calls for increases in salaries and benefits at the current staffing levels as follows: 2017‐2018: $320,073; 2018‐2019: $350,525; and 2019‐2020: $353,139; The article also seeks to raise and appropriate $320,073 for the 2017‐2018 fiscal year in additional costs attributable to the increase in salaries and benefits. The salary schedule was increased by 2.5 percent on the base wage, with average increases of $2,642 in year 1; $2,704 in year 2; and $2,723 in year 3, the budget reports.
On health insurance, teachers increased their cost share by 1 percent in the first year, 1.5 percent in the second year and 1.5 percent in the third year. Projected savings to the district are $76,095 in year 1; $30,846 in year 2; and $30,846 in year 3, according to the budget.
The district is increasing professional development for coursework to $3,000 from $2,400 to encourage staff to pursue master's degrees. The district is also increasing other professional improvement to $1,000 from $750, capping the dollar amount at $100,000. Over three years, salary and fixed costs are expected to total $1.137 million; health insurance savings are expected to total $137,787; professional improvement costs are expected to total $25,000; and the total cost is projected to reach $1.024 million, according to the budget.
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