EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

February 3, 2013

Voters add $800,000 to Derry school budget

By Julie Huss

---- — DERRY — Residents voted yesterday to add $800,000 back into the school budget to hopefully save jobs that were on the chopping block.

At the school district deliberative session residents voted 49-34 to restore money for the 2013-2014 school year.

The amended budget is now $81,903,691. That number includes the self-funded food service and other federal programs. The number reflects a 1.65 percent increase over the current year.

There are 14 positions set to be cut next year including teachers, maintenance, assistants and one secretary.

Other shortfalls expected in the district include less money coming to Derry for state adequacy aid. Taxpayers will also expect to pay more for retirement and healthcare costs for school staff.

Many residents, including local teachers, spoke in favor of keeping the jobs.

Derry Education Association president Meg Morse-Barry said it was vital to keep the positions.

“Cutting positions will affect the quality of education in Derry,” she said. “There will be larger classes. We will go from the highest standards to just adequate.”

School Board member Ken Linehan said the board did everything it could to save money and staff.

“We did not take these cuts lightly,” he said. “We believe they will not have an impact on the quality of education of the students.”

Some cuts would force unified arts professionals like music and art teachers to share time between schools, he said.

Other budget increases include higher costs for Pinkerton Academy tuition. Pinkerton will charge Derry and its other contracted towns $10,292 per student, a 2.76 percent increase over the current year, or $276.70 more.

Derry will send about 123 less students to Pinkerton next year.

Losing so much in state adequacy funding next year also proved a big hit to the budget.

Educator Wendy Mahoney said the town should get more help at the state level when finances falter.

“We need (someone) to fight for us in Concord,” she said, “to receive this funding back.”

State Sen. Jim Rausch, R-Derry, said the reason schools will see less state funding is due to lower enrollment numbers. He said Derry’s representatives are working hard.

“Derry has had a 20 percent increase in adequacy in the last 10 years due to the work of your legislators,” Rausch said. “But you have less children, equals less adequacy. That’s how it works. I wrote the formula. Don’t blame your legislators for the lack of adequacy.”

The district will also spend $200,000 for two additional assistant principals next year, replacing Joe Crawford and Justin Krieger who will leave their assistant principal jobs to serve as co-directors of the district’s new NEXT charter school.

A warrant article on a new three-year collective bargaining agreement between the district and the AFSCME teacher assistants union will also move to the final ballot in March.