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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Proposed Amherst school budget finds no opposition

AMHERST – A combination of few warrant articles and a straightforward proposed operating budget reflecting less than a 1 percent increase allowed the Amherst School District to sail through this year’s Deliberative Session in an impressive 58 minutes Thursday evening.

Moderator Carol Holden fielded only a couple brief questions during the session, which mostly involved School Board members’ explanations of some of the budget’s highlights.

In the end, no amendments were initiated on the proposed budget or the three other articles, which sends them as is to voters for consideration at the March 8 elections.

The budget as proposed stands at just more than $23.5 million, an increase of $161,000, or 0.7 percent, over the current budget. If passed, it would raise the district’s portion of residents’ property taxes 8 cents per $1,000 valuation, which comes to a $32 per year bump for a house assessed at $400,000.

If it fails at the polls, the $23.3 million default budget would take effect. The default budget is about $213,000 less than the proposed budget.

The only other article of substance, which asks voters to approve the recently finalized contract between the district and the Amherst Education Association, also sailed on to the March 8 warrant.

If adopted, the two-year agreement, reached about a month ago after several months of negotiations, would give about 143 elementary and middle school teachers, specialists and staff a 1.2 percent raise starting July 1 and a 2 percent raise in 2012-13.

It asks for about $372,000 in wages and benefits the first year and about $358,000 the second year. The union’s agreement to a new prescription drug benefit program saves the district roughly 25 percent of the cost of wage and benefit increases.

The polls, at Souhegan High School, will be open from 6 a.m.-8 p.m. March 8. In addition to deciding on the budget and warrant articles, voters will elect candidates for several district offices.

Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 673-3100, ext. 31, or dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com.