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Friday, January 13, 2012

Hearing held for Amherst’s $24.5m school budget proposal

AMHERST – The School District’s proposed $24.5 million operating budget for fiscal 2012-13 sailed through a sparsely-attended public hearing Wednesday, gaining unanimous approval from the Ways and Means Committee as it now moves on for consideration at the Feb. 7 deliberative session.

The proposed budget represents a roughly $530,000 – or 2.2 percent – increase over the current budget, a figure driven largely by increased health and dental insurance costs for employees and slight salary increases contained in the recently ratified collective bargaining agreement between the district and the Amherst Support Staff Association.

The association, which covers teaching assistants, paraprofessionals, food service workers and other support staff, agreed to several concessions, including accepting a higher-deductible insurance plan, in exchange for step raises – but no cost of living increase – in 2012-13, the first year of the three-year agreement.

The step raises are mitigated somewhat by the lower insurance premiums the district will pay. They will cost the district roughly $14,000 in year one, $42,000 in year two, which calls for a 1 percent cost of living increase and step increases, and $46,000 in year three, when members are scheduled to receive a 1.5 percent cost of living raise and step increases.

Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 594-6523 or dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com.