To the editor:
As a Londonderry taxpayer for over 40 years, I am concerned with the Londonderry School District’s budget increases. These budgets account for about 70% of the total taxpayer budget each year.
Our School District budgets escalate year after year, but our school enrollment keeps declining.
The New Hampshire Department of Education lists enrollment statistics from 2007 to 2018.
Londonderry High School enrollment in 2007 was 1,828, seventh grade was 418, the fourth grade in three schools was between 126 and 147, and kindergarten was 308.
In 2018, Londonderry High enrollment was 1,444, a decline of 21%. Seventh grade was 306, a decline of 27%. Fourth-grade was between 84 and 96, a decline of 34%. Kindergarten was 226 — a decline of 27%.
During the same period of 2007 to 2018, our total school district budget went from a little over $55 million to over $72 million, an increase of 31%.
I know the class size went from 27 to 22, but maybe we should be looking at something between 22 and 27.
In summary, during the study period of 2007 to 2018, our school budget increased 31% while our enrollments decreased on the order of 21% to 34%, depending on grade levels.
Going forward, the Londonderry School District contracted with the New Hampshire School Administrators Association to provide updated forecasts of student enrollment for each year during the period 2019 to 2029.
The consultants determined the best guideline of three models to forecast future student enrollments was the one-year cohort method.
If forecasts enrollment in kindergarten through fifth grade growing from 1,748 in 2019-20 to 1,897 in the 2028-29 school year. Middle school enrollment would grow from 942 to 1,046, while high school enrollment will decline from 1,427 to 1,371.
I know there have been cost increases in health insurance, pensions, salaries, etc. There have been cuts in state aid. But enrollment is way down, and the school budget is way up.
Looking at the projections for five years out, which might be close to coming to fruition, there is only a 7% increase in grades K-5, a 3% increase in grades 6-8, and a 9% decrease in grades 9-12.
Shouldn't we be looking at cutting costs and reducing our school budgets to reflect sound financial principles?
The School District budget in fiscal 2018 was $72 million, in fiscal 2019 it is $73.5 million, and in fiscal 2020 it is projected to be $75.8 million.
By fiscal 2021, the School District budget, projected to be $78.8 million, will have increased almost another 10% from fiscal 2018.
Furthermore, how can we justify the School Board's request of between $38 million to $70 million to fund capital projects when our enrollments have been consistently declining?