The Pittsfield School District proposed budget for the 2018-2019 school year reflects an increase of $517,461 and increases from the current year budget of $10,105,763 to $10,623,224 (an estimated tax rate increase of $1.50/thousand). While this is a greater than usual Pittsfield single-year increase, the ten-year increase (since 2008-2009) has been about 7%, or about half the rate of inflation. The proposed budget includes no new programs or services to students.
Additional expenses in this proposed budget over the current year budget include the reinstitution of a behavior support position, the addition of a student assistance program (drug and alcohol) counselor, the replacement of two and a half positions back into the budget that are grant-funded this year (all had previously been district-funded), increased special education costs, technology equipment replacement, and modest salary increases for non-union employees.
Savings in this proposed budget over the current year budget include electricity and oil savings due to energy efficiency measures and changes in suppliers, the elimination of one administrative position, the elimination of the school resource officer position, the hiring of three teachers to replace nine support staff positions, the replacement of health insurance plans in favor of a less-expensive plan, and the increase of the employee contributions to health insurance plans.
The district has also developed a default budget, which is the budget that would be adopted if the proposed budget were to be rejected by voters. The default budget is intended to mirror the current year budget with certain allowable increases that include contracts and other obligations incurred or mandated by law.
The default budget reflects an increase of $96,756, or an increase from the current year budget of $10,105,763 to $10,202,519 (an estimated tax rate increase of $.37/thousand). Adoption of the default budget would effect a reduction of $420,705 from the proposed budget, 4% of the total proposed budget.
Additionally, the warrant will include a proposed new collective bargaining agreement between the district and the teacher bargaining unit. The proposal represents a one-year agreement that will cost an estimated $99,885 (or an estimated tax rate increase of $.38/thousand). Terms include a salary guide increase of 1.5%, the replacement of health insurance plans in favor of a less-expensive plan, and the increase of the employee contribution to health insurance plans.
In the larger picture, Pittsfield’s annual funding struggles and conflicts reflect inequities built into the state’s school funding scheme that disadvantage property-poor towns and school districts. Although our Supreme Court mandated that the legislature fix this system back in the 1990’s, there has been no fix; voters might be interested in the non-partisan report on this critical issue at http://www. nhpolicy.org/report/education- finance-in-new-hampshire-headed-to-a-rural-crisis. The legislature may exacerbate this local funding crisis with the tuition bill now under consideration in Concord (https:// reachinghighernh.org/2017/12/06/reaching-higher-nh-study-sb-193-finds-disproportionate-impact-cities-property-poor-districts/).
Voters are strongly encouraged to join the deliberative session of the annual school district meeting at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, February 8, at the Pittsfield Elementary School for explanation, discussion, debate, and amendments to the proposed operating budget and warrant articles.