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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Roof, a major concern, isn’t included in Brookline School Board’s budget proposal

BROOKLINE – The School Board’s proposed budget for fiscal 2013 is slightly lower than last year’s budget.

The $8,762,742 proposed budget is a $7,321 drop from the fiscal 2012 budget, a reduction of less than 1 percent.

The proposed spending plan, however, doesn’t include a separate warrant article for teachers contracts or a proposed bond needed to replace the roof at Captain Samuel Douglass Academy.

The teachers union has been stuck at impasse without a contract for two years, and the school roof, which officials say is in urgent need of replacement, has been a concern for several years.

The School Board will meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Town Hall. The meeting will be televised on the local cable station. A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for Feb. 8.

While the overall proposed budget is virtually flat, School Board Chairman David Partridge said the proposed budget reflects increases in some lines. For example, $42,336 is requested for network improvements, acoustical tiles, and some additional hours for clerical, IT and nurse support.

There are some other increases: $22,177 for health insurance (a number based on the guaranteed maximum increase), $12,767 for FICA and $57,016 for contributions to the New Hampshire Retirement System. There is a reduction of $65,000 for transfers to food service.

“We’re doing our best to keep it as tight as we can because we know we’ve got to do the roof,” Partridge said.

On Tuesday, when the School Board meets for its regular meeting, members are expected to continue discussions about the roof replacement, including the option of replacing it in sections – a substantial part next year and the remainder in five years.

Partridge said his committee welcomes citizen input and urged taxpayers to attend the upcoming School Board meeting rather than wait until the annual meeting to make suggestions.

Partridge said that in building the proposed budget for next year, the School Board had to squeeze resources.

“It’s not easy,” he said. “You can’t just keep squeezing. There are too many fixed costs that go up and things that just need doing, basic maintenance that has to be done. You can’t not do it.”

Partridge said the annual budget process starts with a request to the principals at the two elementary schools to put together a budget that maintains what they’re currently providing, followed by a list of things that need doing on the maintenance side, and finally a list of items that would improve education if money were no object.

The School Board also consults the SAU’s business administrator, Eric Horton, about potential cost-savings measures that won’t affect education, Partridge said, such as the option – employed this year – to buy energy from a newly formed regional cooperative.

Partridge said the school district budget benefited from the retirement of two teachers, whose salaries aren’t part of next year’s budget: one teacher won’t be replaced, while the other will be replaced with a less experienced, and consequently less costly, teacher.

Hattie Bernstein can be reached at 673-3100, ext. 302, or hbernstein@nashuatelegraph.com.