Gilford school spending proposal trimmed by Budget Committee

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

GILFORD — Budget Committee members have decided they will not support the proposed School District budget for next year, nor will they support the proposed three-year teachers contract that will add $300,000 to the 2017-18 budget and $1.6 million in salary and compensation over the contract's three years.

The committee recommends that this year's School District's budget contain $25,725,629 for operations, plus an additional $178,065 representing the 2017-18 bond payment on the renovations to the Elementary School.

In a 6 to 3 vote, the Budget Committee approved the total of $25,903,624, which is $115,702 less that the School Board-approved budget and is also slightly less that the default budget of $25,872,000.

The rationale given by the members of the Budget Committee, led by Chairman Norman Silber, was the majority of the school budget is personnel issues and he cannot support a budget that has 10 of 12 administrators making more than $100,000 and 34 of 146 teachers earning a total compensation package of greater than that same $100,000 annually.

Arguing for his entire budget request and the approval of the proposed teachers contract, Superintendent Kirk Beitler said that only teachers with master's degrees and 10 years or more of service to the Gilford School District are earning that level of compensation. He said further that keeping senior teachers, who often mentor younger teachers, is the best way to continue to make Gilford schools successful.

In a separate action, the Budget Committee voted 5 to 4 to against the proposed teacher contract, repeating their contention that members would have liked the teachers to pay 20 percent of their health insurance costs, as opposed to the 10 percent to which they agreed during negotiations.

This year, the School District is operating under a default budget because the recommended budget was voted down at the March 2016 School District Meeting.

At the previous evening's School Board meeting, Assistant Superintendent for Business Scott Isabelle told the School Board that at the middle of the fiscal year the school budget was on track to finish in the positive. He said that the district so far was $450,000 to the plus on its insurance line, as the dental costs came in lower.

Isabelle added that the special education budget is ahead right now because one outplacement to a private school left the district and two other planned outplacements were able to be served within the district, which saved about $125,000 total in costs. He said there was a little deficit in the middle school summer program.

He said the building maintenance budget is tight largely because of the drainage problem discovered at the elementary school during the renovations. He also said two circulation pumps failed and need to be fixed. Ideally, said Isabelle, they should be replaced.

A Budget Committee public hearing will be held tonight (Thursday) at the Gilford High School Auditorium at 7 p.m. for both the Gilford Town Budget and the Gilford School Budget. The School Board will meet briefly after the public hearings have ended.