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TMCNet:  School budget could cut $1.6M

[November 19, 2012]

School budget could cut $1.6M

Nov 19, 2012 (The Keene Sentinel - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- The budget guideline for the Keene School District is up, yet administrators are still trying to trim expenses to stay within the bottom line.

At last week's meeting, the Keene Board of Education passed a budget guideline of $62,171,120, half a percentage point increase over the 2012-2013 budget.

But while the number is up from this year's $61,861,811 budget, it would actually require the district to cut about $1.6 million.

The board's budget guideline is only a recommendation for administrators to follow when developing a budget. The school board can still adjust the up or down during budget workshops in January.

Even with the same programs and staffing as this year, the district is still facing a $1,904,381, or 3 percent, increase due to voter-approved collective bargaining salary increases, more than $600,000 in estimated health insurance cost increases and nearly $700,000 more that must be paid into the N.H. Retirement System.

That estimated $1.9 million increase already includes some savings from a long-term debt that the district paid off and is no longer a regular line item.

Ann F. Szot, chairman of the district's finance committee, said the committee members agreed that the district needs to look for ways to save money, given the hard economic times residents are dealing with.

The finance committee voted at its October meeting to recommend that the full board aim for a level-funded budget.

But after learning that the district's fixed costs could be greater than anticipated, the committee decided to wait another month before proposing a guideline to the full board.

At Tuesday's meeting, the school board accepted the finance committee's recommendation and passed the $62.1 million guideline in an 8-1 vote.

Board member Mark R. Nugent voted against the guideline, saying that this number seemed to be pulled out of the air.

Instead of asking officials what they need to run their school, the finance committee just chose a number to set the budget at, and board members know reducing expenses by $1.6 million will result in staff cuts, he said.

Kaitlin Mulhere can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1439, or Follow her on Twitter at @KMulhereKS.

___ (c)2012 The Keene Sentinel (Keene, N.H.) Visit The Keene Sentinel (Keene, N.H.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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