Hudson School Board, Administration Struggle with the Failed Budget

April 10, 2015

by Len Lathrop

With a default budget being $1,147,551 less than the budget that the school board had presented to the voters, adjustments to meet the funding level were the focus of Monday night’s school board meeting.

Superintendent Bryan Lane, in conjunction with Business Administrator Karen Burnell, all the department heads, and all school principals, has been meeting over the last two weeks to figure out what items needed to be taken out of the budget to meet the approved funding level and to maintain the desired programming.  While the default budget is defined as last year’s operating budget, less any one-time purchases plus any contracted agreements, it is a complicated formula, but presents a truly bottom line situation.  In simple terms, this is what you have for money and you can spend it to make your school district run the best way you can, all with the approval of the five school board members.

The first step in evaluating the default budget is to take last year’s budget and add any extra monies that were in certain line items back into the current plan, while defining which line items were short of what was in the failed budget.  Lane presented a list of 27 line items where the current budget in last year’s budget differed.  These totaled $1,158,697.  With surplus allocations from the current budget, the total funding needed to complete the programming was reduced to $781,111.

Lane explained that as the budget process starts in August and very early September the following September enrollment is hard to project, and there are several areas where cost adjustments can be made to the projected September 2015 enrollment that will produce an additional $454,600.  That means the shortfall total can be recalculated to $263,511.

The next adjustment came from budget requests that could be put off for a year or eliminated: items like parking lot striping district wide, a 10 percent decrease in supplies, all new furniture requests and eight other line items.  These adjustments totaled $151,720 which, when approved, would bring the shortfall number to $111,791.

In the 2014-15 school year the school board voted to add several programs to their operational system; these items were, of course, removed when the default budget became effective.  They included the teacher mentor program at a cost of $17,769, the Alvirne Math Support Center with a cost of $40,000, a district-wide technology support program originally planned at $21,000 but currently only spending $14,000, for a total of $71,169.  The administration felt that these are important programs that have enhanced Hudson schools, so adding the $71,169 back into the budget brings the new shortfall total to $183,560.

Lane explained that this list was composed while meeting with all the administrative people and principals and that some items on the list should be taken off, some items should be looked at, and that some items might be added based on board input.

Lane’s recommendation to the school board was that a special meeting he held to review all possible reductions to the operating budget and their effect on programming. Lane will refine the list and have it to the school board by Thursday.  In a vote of 5 to 0, the school board has decided to have a special school board meeting on Monday, April 13 at 6:30 p.m. to take public input and discuss how to make up the deficit of $183,560 that is needed to balance the budget.

Other school board actions during the Monday night meeting included approval for an end-of-year field day for first graders sponsored by the YMCA at Camp Sergeant in Merrimack, N.H.  The field day is scheduled for June 11 for first graders only.  There will be no cost to the family and very limited cost to the district, which is $174 for busing to come out of the student activity fee.  This is a spinoff of the superhero program of the YMCA.  The Early Learning Center staff recently concluded that staff, parents and teachers found all participants had a great improvement in individual classroom participation/engagement, attendance, and group interaction.  This is the first time that the YMCA is offering this type of field day, which will include boating rope courses and field games.  In addition, Stonyfield will be visiting with refreshments at the end of the fun-filled day.  The school board voted 5 to 0 to approve the field day and also approved 50 JROTC and adult chaperones attending a Junior Reserve Officer Training Leadership conference in August at the Army National Guard training site in Strafford, N.H.