Hudson Budget Committee Begins Review: What We Did Not KnowNovember 28, 2014
by Len Lathrop
Did you know that there is a section in the school district budget called the “Kimball Webster Building?” Did you know that if a parent of a student with an Individual Education Plan wants their child in a charter school, the school district has to pay for the tuitions and transportation to that school? Do you know what a Technology Integration Specialist does?
These were the major areas of concern when the Hudson Budget Committee began the first meeting of four scheduled for the school district budget. Chaired by Shawn Jasper, the Budget Committee is an elected body whose role is defined by RSA 32:1, and, once the selectmen or the school board passes the budget to them, they are in control until the deliberative session in the begin of February.
As Superintendent Bryan Lane began his presentation, he allured to good news. While that news was not announced until well into the meeting when Business Administrator Karen Burnell said that health and dental insurance was been quoted at lower rate than was estimated. This saving will lower the tax impact by 13 cents for the FY 16 budget. It is a savings of $322,856, leaving the cost of health and dental insurance for the school district at $6,539,527.
Back to the questions, the Kimball Webster Building budget covers almost everything that cannot be placed in one of the school’s cost centers, all of the leadership functions of the district, transportation, specials services, food service, retirement, unemployment, contracted services, psychological services, and bond services. All costs are part of a .pdf file you can view on your computer or download if you like. Reference www.sau81.org/district/page/district-budget-2015-2016. This administrative division accounts for $12,662,456 of the $50,047,195 budget.
As the budget committee reviews each page of the budget, the special services transportation budget alone is $823,944; that does not include a separate line for $43,000, the current cost to transport a student with an IEP to the charter school, which the parent have a choice. Staff advised the committee that it required with the current regulations regarding charter schools and students with IEPs.
With the turn of each page of this massive loose-leaf binder, truly not many questions were asked by the committee, one that was, was about a new position called Technology Integration Specialist. Superintendent Lane explained that this was a teacher’s teacher, whose role was to assist the classroom teachers with computer and other technology issues. He explained that as the classroom changes with smart boards and interactive software, many seasoned teachers must adapt to new programs and methodology. This teacher’s role is to go to the classroom and help and ensure that their teaching method adapted and utilized the new technology with the students and that the students have integrated the new systems to take full advantage of what they have to offer.
On Monday, Nov. 24, the committee undertook the Alvirne High School budget, following the same procedures. Principal Beals, with support from Superintendent Lane, went page by page of the 44 pages and pointed out where additional money has proposed to be spent. Many line increases had to do with the need for new textbooks or new teaching tools such as smart boards. Beals pointed out where several teaching positions had been reclassified to another department or, in the case of welding and diesel mechanics, now to separate cost centers that in the past were together. There were few questions from the committee and most centered around technology and its integration. The Alvirne budget was presented and remains almost level with last year’s budget with any increase due to approved teacher contacts and the building renovation of the elevator replacement, which was funded by a capital reserve act and Alvirne trustee funds.
As the meeting on Monday drew to a close, Chairman Jasper asked the committee if they wanted to hold all changes and questions until the Dec. 4 meeting as “this is a lot of money,” and they need to put their thinking caps on as to what to do.
The committee is scheduled to reconvene on Dec. 2 where the Memorial School and elementary schools budget will be discussed. On Dec. 4 there will be a “wrap up meeting” where questions and recommendations will be aired about the school budget. The budget committee began review of the much smaller town budget on Dec. 8 with meetings on the 10th, 18th and 22nd. Finally, meeting on Dec. 29 and Jan. 5 for collective bargaining contracts and a final meeting on Jan. 7 prior to public hearings on the 8th and 12th.