EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 15, 2013

Timberlane budget increases slightly

By Alex Lippa

---- — PLAISTOW — The Timberlane Regional School District has proposed a budget which is nearly 2 percent higher than last year.

School Board members voted unanimously in favor of the budget at a public hearing on Thursday night.

“This budget is respectful of the needs of the district and the taxpayers,” school superintendent Earl Metzler said yesterday.

The proposed budget is $64,272,418. The biggest increases were in state retirement and employee insurance.

“These are under no control of the Budget Committee or the School Board,” Budget Committee Chairman Michelle O’Neil said at Thursday’s meeting. “We have to pay those numbers as they are given to us.”

Without the mandated increases, O’Neil said, the budget would be virtually the same as last year.

If the proposed budget is rejected by the voters, the default budget would be $146,343 higher.

Warrant articles also were discussed at the hearing and the most notable was the proposed new teachers contract. A three-year agreement was reached between the School Board and the Timberlane Teachers’ Association.

“We worked with the teachers for many days and many hours,” School Board Chairman Rob Collins said. “We think this is a very fair agreement and we fully support it moving forward over the next three years.”

Teachers will see an overall 1.5 percent increase in salaries for the 2013-2014 school year. In 2014-2015, they will receive a 2.8 percent increase. The increase is due to a change in the teachers’ medical plans after next year.

“This contract was really our priority,” Metzler said. “We want to keep the best and brightest teachers in New Hampshire working at Timberlane.”

Another article would authorize $200,000 to be added to the school’s capital reserve fund. This money comes from the budget surplus and not from the taxpayers. A similar article passed at last year’s school district meeting.

Missing from the warrants is any proposed new athletic facility. A $4.8 million bond article was rejected by voters at last year’s meeting. In November, Metzler said it would be unlikely for a new athletic facility to appear on this year’s ballot because of the focus on the new teachers contract.

“That need still very much exists,” Metzler said. “I wanted to have the opportunity for the taxpayers to look solely at the teachers contract without looking at a major request for funding.”

Also appearing on the ballot is an idea proposed by Budget Committee member Donna Green. The warrant would allow the school administrative unit budget to be voted on separately at the annual school district meetings.