Pelham - Windham News November 26, 2010 - 7
School Board Makes ‘First Pass’ at Budget Proposal
by Barbara O’Brien With the holidays already upon us, and the end
of the year fast approaching, Windham School Board members have taken what was termed “a first pass” at the administration’s proposed 2011-2012 operating budget.
Due to the reportedly extended illness of
Windham Business Administrator Donna Clairmont, Pelham’s counterpart, Adam Steele, has taken over the job of presenting the facts, figures, and reasoning behind next year’s Windham School District budget. Steele addressed Windham School Board members during a workshop on November 15.
Windham School Board Vice Chairman Ed Gallagher led the work session, in the absence of Chairman Bruce Anderson. “The purpose of this workshop is for us to roll up our sleeves, dive in, and have a good dialogue,” Gallagher said. Being a workshop, there was no public input allowed during the meeting. Gallagher did say that he strongly “encouraged interaction” among School Board members. Superintendent Frank Bass told School Board members that “we have met and exceeded our charge.” Board members had directed Bass to come back with a zero-percent increase over the current year’s (2010-2011) operating budget. “We did better than that,” Bass said, proposing a budget that amounts to $109,000 less than this year’s operating budget. The school district budget runs on a fiscal basis, from July 1 to June 30 of the following year. Bass gave kudos to Steele for the amount of work he had done in getting the proposed budget ready for presentation. “The lion’s share of the credit goes to Adam Steele,” Bass said. According to a general fund trend analysis presented by Steele, the proposed budget for 2011- 2012 totals $39,766,906; a 0.27-percent decrease ($109,383) over the current year’s approved budget of $39,876,289, which was a 2.94-percent increase over last year’s approved budget. As for the future, Steele’s projections predict a 4.06-percent increase in the operating budget for 2012-2013, bringing the total for that year to an all-time high of $41,383,000. “Will there be some consequences to a reduced budget next year?” Bass asked. “Sure, there will,” he answered. As for incoming revenue next year, he said he is feeling optimistic, though. “I feel [potential] revenue is going in a positive direction,”
he added. Steele said that the SAU (#28) had just received notification that Windham could expect $1.7 million more in State revenue next year. He “cautioned” administrators, however, not to count on this amount of money, due to the uncertainty of what might occur as the result of major political changes taking place in the State Legislature, following the General Election earlier this month. “We may not know for sure [how much State revenue Windham will receive] until mid-way through the fiscal year [2011-2012],” he added. He also explained to School Board members how important it is for them to stay in touch with Windham’s State Legislators throughout the process. ‘It’s incumbent upon us to rally the troops,” Bass commented.
Steele said the major problem facing the
Windham School District now, and for some time to come, are the space constraints existing at three of the four public schools. “We have to deal with this issue in an affordable and creative manner,” he said. The only school in Windham that does not have a lack of space is the new Windham High School, which was completed in 2009 and still only houses three-quarters of the high school population. Seniors are still attending Salem High School. As a result of the charge to keep next year’s
operating budget on an even keel with this year’s, Steele said, “each of the school principals has had to make some painful adjustments.” Despite the cutbacks proposed by administrators, however, he said it is only because of “some unique situations” that the budget proposal is as low as it is. “This is not likely to happen again in the future,” he emphasized, adding that it was better for School Board members to realize this now, than be caught off-guard somewhere down the road. “Moving forward, you wouldn’t be able to have a zero-percent increase without a serious impact to education [such as cutting teacher positions],” Steele cautioned. The unique “budget-lowering” situations to
which Steele referred include teacher contract negotiations that are currently in progress, lower utility costs than were previously budgeted, and not having to pay any more high school tuition money to the Town of Salem. The cost of employee benefits will continue to rise, though, he explained, partially because of increased staff for Windham High School. When asked by Gallagher what the amount of
Drainage Problems on Lannan Drive Delays Acceptance
by Lynne Ober Pelham’s Lannan Drive was supposed to become
a town road this year, but continued water and drainage problems have delayed acceptance. Pelham’s Planning Director Jeff Gowan told selectmen that the genesis of the issue was the development uphill from Lannan Drive. To prohibit water coming from that development onto Lannan Drive and flowing onto Spring Street, a serpentine drainage swale had been constructed, but it didn’t stop the water problem. According to Gowan, Kurt Meisner, the developer, understood the issue, planned to complete work on Ballard Road, and then bring his crew back to Lannan Drive to work on the swale. A plan for that work had been developed and had been reviewed by Road Agent Don Foss. The plan was now being reviewed by the Planning Board’s engineering firm, Stantec. Gowan stated that Meisner still hoped that Lannan Drive could be brought forth for town acceptance this year. Gowan asked selectmen to allow the work to go forward after the final engineering review of the plan. Town Administrator Tom Gaydos questioned the
review process and wondered if the Planning Board would review the final engineering review. Gowan said that there had been issues also with Ballard Road, but that Steve Keach of Keach-Nordstrom had developed a solution that worked well and that Gowan felt this problem would also be resolved.
Selectman Hal Lynde questioned why this issue
hadn’t been discovered during the design process and asked if data used at that time was inadequate. Lynde wanted to understand what caused the problem, as well as just fix it. Gowan replied that the project had been
approved before he had been hired and he didn’t know all the details. That led Lynde to ask if the Planning Board was reviewing its process, and Gowan said no.
When Selectman Bill McDevitt asked why this request was coming to them, Gowan explained that much of the work needed to be done within the town’s right of way and that needed selectmen approval. Gowan also said that the developer was paying all costs for the repair and additional work. Gowan noted that the hill was very steep and that there was a low point on Spring Street that collected water. Selectmen then discussed icing in the winter and Gowan fielded those questions, including an explanation that beaver dams had been removed by the Road Agent, which helped alleviate the icing issues. After lengthy discussion, selectmen directed
Gowan to have Keach work with Stantec in reviewing the proposed design. Results of the combined review will be brought back to the selectmen.
Festival of Trees Supports the Pelham Food Pantry
submitted by Charlene Takesian Pelham Community Spirit is gearing up for its second annual Southern New Hampshire Festival of Trees. The Festival opens on Friday, November 26, at 4 p.m. and runs through Saturday, December 4, at 5 p.m., in Sherburne Hall at the Municipal Center in Pelham. Trees are decorated and donated by individuals and businesses from the Community, and are raffled off on the final day of the event. Raffle tickets are available for purchase throughout the event and placed in containers near each tree. Participants can put as many tickets in each container as they wish to win that tree. Winners will be drawn on Saturday, December 4, at the close of the Festival. Trees must be picked up on Sunday morning by noon. Non-profit groups from Pelham will be selling baked goods at the
Candy Cane Café in the lobby of the Town Hall during the event. Visits from Mr. and Mrs. Claus will highlight the weekend. Monday night is Senior Citizens night. All seniors will be admitted free to the Festival. On Tuesday, the First Congregational Church English Handbell Choir will perform. For an updated list of events, visit their Website at SNHFestivalofTrees.com
. In the spirit of community, the Festival will be making a donation to
the Pelham Food Pantry. Bring an item worth $5 or more to the event on Sunday, November 28 (only), and get a free sheet of raffle tickets to win one (or more) of the Trees on display. There are still openings for trees. Anyone wishing to decorate and donate a tree can download the application from the Website.
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teacher salary increases might be as the result of a new contract, Steele said it could be as much as a half-million a year. The existing three-year contract, signed in 2007, called for a three-percent-per-year salary increase, plus STEP increases for teachers remaining in Windham. When a new contract is negotiated, it will be for a greater number of teachers, due to the opening of the new high school.
Also going up is the cost of required State retirement contributions. Steele said the school district’s contribution to the State retirement system is expected to increase 9.7 percent next year (approximately $200,000). “Expect it to get worse” after that, he added. On a positive note, Steele did tell School Board
members that the money being saved by not having to pay tuition to Salem is more than the cost of paying teacher salaries and benefits to staff the new high school. According to information provided by Steele, the amount of money to be saved in high school tuition for next year will total about $1,833,510. The cost of paying the salaries for new teachers at the high school (2011-2012) totals an estimated $1,088,146. The cost of paying benefits to these new teachers was not available. Referring to the entire budget proposal, Steele
said, “There’s not a lot of cushion.” He also said that there are no proposed cuts to any athletic programs, although some cuts to athletic supplies, across the board, are included in the current budget proposal.
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