Franklin school officials present trimmed $14.96 million budget

  • Officials meet Monday night to discuss an updated $14.96 million budget for the school district. Lola Duffort / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 5/9/2017 12:34:26 AM

The Franklin school district “reluctantly” presented an updated $14.96 million budget to the city council Monday, a proposal that includes the elimination of three teaching positions.

“The reason that it was reluctant is because we had all taken a pledge earlier to not present any budget that would cause any cuts for teachers,” school board Chairman Tim Dow told the council.

The school board had earlier this year approved a $15,363,063 budget, up just $58,675 from this year’s spending plan. But that was about $1.1 million over the district’s $14.26 million in projected state, grant and local revenues.

The city found $473,000 in one-time funds to help the school district make up the difference, said Superintendent Daniel LeGallo, which saved the district from giving pink slips to up to 17 teachers.

On Monday, the council approved a motion accepting the district’s proposed $14.96 million plan, promising not to go lower when they settled on a final budget in July.

School officials said the teaching cuts would be spread out across the district, with one at each school.

The proposed budget also includes cuts in staffing, but through attrition. It doesn’t replace two central office district employees who are leaving anyway – a grant manager and an administrative assistant – as well as a retiring kindergarten teacher, whose position would have been cut due to decreased enrollment, LeGallo said.

Last year

This isn’t the first budget crisis that the district, which is contending with a tax-cap and dwindling state aid, has narrowly avoided. Last year, it made up a roughly $1 million shortfall by raiding dedicated funds and turning to fundraising for certain supplies.

The district also already spends about $3,000 less per pupil than the state average, according to state data, and Franklin teachers make about $12,000 less, on average, than teachers elsewhere in New Hampshire. About 60 percent of the district’s students are on free or reduced-price lunch – about twice the state average.

City Councilor Scott Clarenbach said a big-picture solution was absolutely necessary.

“Somehow, we’ve got to find the energy amongst the council, and the school board, and the citizenry, and the parents, and we’ve got to find a way to do a different model of education,” he said. “If it’s one-time money every year, it gets worse and worse. The picture becomes more and more bleak. I appreciate the efforts this year; I think it’s another travesty averted, but really we’re just kicking the can down the road.”

Looking for solutions

Dow said that part of that solution might be found in talking with the state’s new education commissioner, Frank Edelblut, who had recently visited the district.

“He has offered his services to the school board to come in and see if there are some savings that we can have,” Dow said.

But Werner Horn, a Republican state representative from Franklin, said after the meeting that he thought the solution absolutely didn’t lie with finding more ways to save.

“I was stunned that when Franklin continues to spend two-and-a-half thousand less than the state per pupil, how we can think those numbers are acceptable,” he said.

Horn said he thought the city council should be doing more to rehabilitate properties to get the tax rolls producing more revenue. But he said the other part of the solution would have to be the state’s doing.

“I am on public record now, and will continue to be, to say that the state’s contribution of 25 percent, per student, of what it takes to educate New Hampshire children is not acceptable. It’s not adequate,” he said.

Horn filed legislation earlier this session to try to temporarily freeze cuts to stabilization aid, which help property-poor districts like Franklin, while the Legislature mulls a retooling of the state’s entire educating funding formula. The bill was retained in committee.

(Lola Duffort can be reached at 369-3321 or

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