EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 10, 2013

Windham School Board proposes $45.6M plan

By John Toole
jtoole@eagletribune.com

---- — WINDHAM — The School Board is taking a $45.6 million budget to public hearing tomorrow night. The spending plan would add nearly $1 to the tax rate.

Officials will outline the spending plan along with a proposed $31 million financing plan for a new middle school.

The hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Windham High, 64 London Bridge Road.

School Board Chairman Bruce Anderson said the budget would increase spending nearly $2 million, or 4.56 percent, above this year’s budget.

He said the projected increase to the $23.05 per $1,000 property value tax rate is 92 cents.

That would add $322 to the tax bill for a home valued at $350,000, he said.

About 3 percent of the budget increase is the result of costs the school district can’t control, Anderson said.

The school district’s state retirement costs are up more than $460,000 and its health insurance expenses up more than $240,000. Transportation is up nearly $400,000, due to rising fuel costs and a new route.

Windham is moving into its own standalone School Administrative Unit 95, which is requiring a budget of about $220,000.

That is below expectations. A study committee had estimated the cost at $300,000 to $400,000.

“We worked to keep that low,” Anderson said.

Budget increases over the past five years are in line with student enrollment growth, he said.

“The lines are almost parallel,” he said.

Windham’s per pupil cost is below the state average, he said.

The School Board decided to pursue the middle school project during the fall. The cost is pegged at $31 million.

“We’re hoping that comes down a bit,” Anderson said.

The school is expected to open for the 2015-2016 school year, if voters approve.

“There is an outside chance it could open in 2014, but we’re not promising that at all,” Anderson said.

A teachers’ contract also will be before voters. Anderson said the pact would cost about $107,000 in the first year.

The deal is expected to save the district $600,000 in the first year because of health insurance concessions by teachers.

There would be no across-the-board pay increase in the first year, but raises of 1.5 percent in the second year and 2.25 percent in the third year.

Teachers would be allowed to catch up on longevity step increases, though not fully, under the deal, which would be their first in several years.

Voters will act on the budget at Town Meeting on March 12. The school deliberative session is Feb. 8.