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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Hudson school budget plan gets day in the sun

HUDSON – A meeting to review the proposed school budget for next year was postponed twice because of snowstorms.

But luck was on the side of public officials Thursday night. With no snow falling, the municipal Budget Committee was finally able to have its say on the funding needed to run public schools.

After all the wait, the committee voted in only nine minutes to recommend a proposed $44.89 million budget and three spending proposals. It’s unknown whether the rapid pace set any record.

None of the dozen audience members asked a question, and no committee members deliberated at length.

The committee unanimously approved – with Board of Selectmen representative Roger Coutu abstaining – to recommend the operating budget for the 2011-12 school year.

The proposed budget is $1.05 million more than, or a 2.39 percent increase from, the current $43.84 million budget.

The recommendations mean the budget and three proposals covering salaries will now appear on the ballot in March.

If the measures pass at the polls, the local school portion of the tax rate would increase 53 cents per $1,000 in assessed property value. The current local school tax rate is $7.78 per $1,000.

School officials estimate having $510,257 less in revenue next school year because of a drop-off in state and federal funding.

Should the proposed budget fail at the polls, a default $44.9 million operating budget would take effect. A default budget is the current budget plus any contractual obligations.

The three spending proposals cover salaries for district employees.

The first seeks approval of the collective bargaining agreement for unionized school district secretaries. There would be no salary increase in school year 2011-12. But there would be a 2 percent increase each of the following school years, setting base salaries at $21,729 and $22,164 respectively.

Another proposal is a collective bargaining agreement for the district’s unionized custodians, electricians and HVAC technicians.

There would be no salary increase next school year, but there would be a 2 percent increase each of the following school years. The increases would set base salaries at $33,003 and $33,633 for the school years starting 2012 and 2013.

The third proposal would appropriate $11,081 to be spent on salaries and benefits for nonunion district employees.

The municipal Budget Committee’s recommendations effectively place measures on the ballot. The committee makes changes to a potential budget after it’s crafted by the School Board.

Albert McKeon can be reached at 594-5832 or amckeon@nashuatelegraph.com.