The Souhegan School District is offering up a lower budget to voters this year, but some are calling for further reductions in response to declining enrollment.
The board’s proposed budget for FY14 is $17,762,262, which is 3.7 percent less ($681,565) than the default budget chosen by voters for FY13.
“We worked very hard to create an essential budget next year,” said board member Frances Harrow. “We looked at what we absolutely needed.”
This proposed budget includes a reduction of 10.2 employees, including full-time teachers, administrative assistants, a paraprofessional and a reduction in custodian hours.
Harrow said that if voters turn down this budget in favor of the default budget ($17,620,192), funding for maintenance equipment, textbooks, technology upgrades and transportation services will suffer.
The majority of the SHS Advisory Finance Committee support the board’s proposed budget as a step in the right direction to adjust spending to enrollment declines in the school district. However, two committee members said that further cuts are necessary.
Committee member David Chen said that Souhegan’s cost per student is much higher than surrounding towns, including Milford, Merrimack, Bedford and Hollis-Brookline. He added that the student-teacher ratio does not match up to declining enrollment in the school district. Souhegan’s enrollment has fallen 22.5 percent from its highest point in the 2004-5 school year to 811 this year.
“We do not look good against other schools that are neighboring us,” said Chen.
While he commended the board for crafting a responsible budget, he said that the board should pursue more long term cuts to reflect the actual student population in the coming years.
Committee member Kathie Nunley proposed cutting special education staff.
Amherst voters will also cast their ballot on a two-year teacher and support staff agreement that will increase salary, benefits and COLA. The warrant article asks for $62,400 for this fiscal year, and $118,568 for the next, for a total of $180,968. The SHS Advisory Finance Committee fully supported this agreement.
The Amherst School District was unable to reach such an agreement with their teacher’s union, which has left them without a contract.