School Board Gets Budget Summary

October 7, 2016

 

by Lynne Ober

Hudson School District Business Administrator Karen Burnell presented a budget summary to the Hudson School Board.  As always this budget was created as a joint effort between each school and the SAU staff.  After the board review of the budget, it will also be presented to the Hudson Budget Committee for review.

However, work has been done on the budget.  Not only that but the board met with the Hudson Board of Selectmen on Aug. 22 to work on priorities.  The overall goal of that meeting was that the school board and selectmen agreed to work together to get expensive warrant articles passed.  The handshake agreement, which school board member Lee Lavoie and selectman Roger Coutu remember, was that this the school board would not ask for any large-ticket items so that the fire station could pass.

Even though school enrollment in Hudson continues to shrink, budgets continue to rise.  Once again, previously approved contracts, which are now contractual obligations, result in the majority of the cost increases.  The budget is up 2.85 percent over previous years.

Burnell explained that benefits and salary increases were largely responsible for the budget increase.  Salaries increased by $840,936 and retirement costs, which are a percentage of salary, increased by $374,624.  The district budgeted a 10 percent increase in health insurance, which results in an increase of $490,965.  The total increase in benefits (health and retirement) was $965,589.

According to Interim Superintendent Phyllis Schlichter, the budget was developed using current enrollment figures because there was some concern that the projected (and lower) enrollment was not accurate.  “The current enrollment (as of the first Friday of September) was 3,446 students,” stated Schlichter, who noted that both first grade and kindergarten enrollments had been higher this year than previously projected.

Transportation also increased by $88,392.  The district included snow removal as well in its facilities budget and this increased to $49,920.  The facilities budget also includes maintenance as well as other projects, such as window replacement and facility improvements.

Burnell said that nearly half a million dollars was budgeted for technology software and equipment replacement.  The $244,537 increase is largely being driven by the proposed replacement of the Student Information System.  This important system is used by every school to track, manage and report all student data including parent contacts, schedules and grades.  In a digital world, such systems have become much more important to parents.

With enrollments shrinking, revenue for the district from the state is also shrinking as the state formula is based on a per pupil basis.  “Projected revenue for the district will decrease by approximately $170,000,” wrote Burnell to the board in a late September memo.

In her memo Burnell estimated the operating system budget tax impact.  It seems that such an estimation is premature as none of the warrant articles yet have a cost value.  Perhaps the board should look at the entire picture and not just one piece of the picture.

The default budget removes one-time expenditures found in the previous budget.  According to Burnell, the default budget has been calculated as being $52,894,043, which is $433,476 less than the proposed budget.

According to Burnell’s memo two labor groups are currently in negotiation and the board can expect to see a warrant article for each.  These are the Collective Bargaining Agreement with Teamsters, District Maintenance & Custodial Staff and the Collective Bargaining Agreement with AFSCME, District Leadership.

The other area where a warrant article may be generated is for the roof replacement of the Alvirne High School gym.  Although no figure was presented, this roof is expected to cost between $250,000 and $325,000 according to SAU staff and school board members.  Work is currently underway to produce a more accurate estimate.  According to Schlichter, “Some funds from capital reserve will likely be used for that purpose.”  By using funds from the capital reserve, the district will be able to avoid asking for the full amount, thus keeping taxes as low as possible.

Typically, the district presents it warrant articles to the Hudson Budget Committee toward the end of budget committee deliberations.