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SAU 24 to talk teachers’ contracts, kindergarten at deliberative sessions

  • Weare Middle school on Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017. Elizabeth Frantz / Monitor file



Monitor staff
Thursday, February 08, 2018

The schools under the umbrella of SAU 24 will be deliberating everything from teachers’ contracts to bringing in a full-day kindergarten program.

The school district, which includes the schools of Henniker, Weare, Stoddard and joint high school John Stark Regional High School, will be holding its separate deliberative sessions throughout next week. Here’s a breakdown of what to expect and when the sessions are:

Henniker

Residents of the only Henniker on Earth should expect to do business a little differently this year, as it’s the first time the district will be operating under a SB 2 format. SAU 24 superintendent Lorraine Tacconi-Moore said she’s made efforts to educate voters on the differences between SB 2 and traditional town meeting styles – mainly on the fact that all discussion and changes will be happening next week, rather than in March.

That means anyone who wants to weigh in or suggest changes to Henniker Community School’s $7.8 million proposed budget – about $95,480 over the current budget – should attend Monday’s meeting, which starts at 7 p.m. at Henniker Community School. That budget includes a 5.7 percent increase in health insurance costs, capital improvements and contracted services. All together, expenses are projected to go up by $357,744.

But those expenses will be offset by $262,264 in budget reductions, including a $66,267 reduction in salaries and $124,096 in tuition, according to district documents. The default budget – last year’s budget without any one-time expenses, debt service or contracts – is unique to SB 2 towns, and is $99,981 less than this year’s proposed budget.

The other big-ticket item to be discussed is whether the district should bring on a full-day kindergarten program, projected to cost $163,397. Should the article pass, the district anticipates that cost will be offset by $65,000 in additional state adequacy aid.

Should all warrant articles pass, the tax rate would be increased by 52 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, according to district documents. That’s an additional $130 on a $250,000 home.

John Stark RegionalHigh School

Perhaps the most dynamic deliberative session will involve the fate of SAU 24’s joint high school, which will take place at 7 p.m. on Friday.

The John Stark school board will be asking voters to approve a $13.5 million operating budget, about $230,000 less than the current operating budget. Tacconi-Moore said the difference is mostly due to staffing reductions made through attrition. About 4.4 positions will not be replaced, she said, but she didn’t anticipate that will be a problem for the district, which has been losing about 20 students per year lately.

That doesn’t mean there won’t be a need for more staff in the future, Tacconi-Moore said, noting that the district is seeing large classes from Henniker and Weare that will feed into John Stark.

In addition, the board is also asking voters to approve a three-year contract with the school’s teachers. Faculty members have been without a contract for a year after voters didn’t approve two previous contracts.

Under the second shot-down contract, teachers would have received a 2.11 percent step increase each of the next two years, a decrease from the current contract rate of 3.63 percent. Overall, the contract would have cost taxpayers $329,248 over three years, compared with the first rejected contract’s projected cost of $382,393.

This contract is projected to cost significantly less at $268,025. Key items include a reduced employer heath care premium contribution of 85 to 80 percent, as well as a reduced HSA contribution and incentives to have employees opt out of the district’s health plan.

It also includes step increase of 1 percent and a flat $1,000 for employees off the salary grid, and requires additional professional development and a master’s degree after 10 years of experience to progress on the salary scale.

The board is also looking for approval of $2.3 million worth of energy-saving equipment, including a wood chip boiler, insulation, LED lighting and upgraded heating systems. Tacconi-Moore said the warrant will be tax-neutral, however, because the money saved on electricity and oil will exceed annual payments of $119,719 toward the boiler’s 20-year lease.

If all warrants are approved, the budget would raise the Weare tax rate by 9 cents and Henniker’s tax rate by 22 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. In Weare, that’s a $22.50 increase on a $250,000 home; for Henniker it would be an extra $55 for that same home.

Weare

The Weare school district has the most straightforward budget; Tacconi-Moore said the district is at “status quo” because the teachers could not ratify a contract this year, so they will go into the next year on the current agreement.

The proposed operating budget is $15.3 million, a decrease of $3,328 from this year’s budget. The district is facing $141,000 worth of increases, including a $78,000 increase in special education contracted services, but that is outweighed by $282,699 worth of budget reducers, the biggest being a $91,931 reduction in salary costs. The default budget is $15.1 million.

A warrant article will ask for $75,000 from any budget surplus left at the end of this year and to place it in a maintenance trust fund. That money would be used to replace a boiler at Center Woods Elementary School.

If all articles are approved, the budget would raise the tax rate by 27 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. That’s an additional $67.50 on a $250,000 home.

The district’s deliberative session is at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Weare Middle School.

(Caitlin Andrews can be reached at 369-3309, candrews@cmonitor.com or on Twitter at @ActualCAndrews.)