Small increase in school budget

WILTON – For the third year in a row, the board and Budget Committee of the Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative School District have kept budget increases to less than 2 percent. Since there is only one special article on the warrant, it should make for a short district meeting on Friday, March 4. Only 10 people attended a hearing on the budget on Feb. 4 – a hearing that lasted a half hour. Budget Committee Vice Chairman Karen Grybko moderated the meeting.

Superintendent Dr. Christine Tyrie explained the budget and answered the handful of questions after her presentation. The single warrant article asks permission for the board to apply $3,300 in accumulated interest on bond funds toward the interest on the bond. The total budget equals $12.3 million, an increase of $171,127, or 1.5 percent. Tyrie said the "budget drivers" include a 2 percent increase in health insurance ($69,960); a 2 percent salary increase ($70,440) as provided in the third year of the staff contract; a 2 percent increase in support staff, year two of a three-year contract ($43,575); increased benefits, including retirement and FICA ($24,596); and an increase in special education tuition and transportation ($219,520) because of more students in the programs.

She also noted a decrease in state adequacy aid because of declining enrollment, $3,561 for each student, and a decline in federal grants ($29,636) which she said was because of federal "sequestration." In spite of these increases, Tyrie said the Budget Committee and School Board, working together, managed to keep the increase below 2 percent. There will be a decrease in administrative staff, she said, which will not affect classroom teachers or student programs. There is no change in the maintenance schedules or replacement costs.

Tyrie noted that 71 percent of the budget is for salaries and benefits and that only 9 percent is discretionary. That figure includes books, supplies, software, workshops, travel, dues and fees. Sally Curran, of Lyndeborough, asked why continuing the extended halfday kindergarten program was included in the budget and "not a warrant article as it was last year when the program was approved."

At that time, the board said the program would not be continued if it did not at "least break even." It is supposed to be selfsupporting, which Tyrie said it will be with two new students expected. "The School Board feels strongly that a full-day kindergarten is optimal," board Vice Chairman Harry Dailey said. "We tried to come up with a program without cost to the taxpayers.

The concept was approved last year. If the warrant were voted down, we couldn’t continue the program even if it is selfsupporting." Kindergarten parents pay for the extended halfday program. Tyrie said after the hearing that financial aid is available for low-income families.

Asked about hot lunch, Tyrie said there was no food service at the school. Students bring their own. Asked about transportation, she said there is a bus from Wilton, but it is part of the contract. Parents provide most of the transportation. It was stressed that the program will be discontinued if it is not paying for itself. The annual school district meeting will be held at the high school at 7 p.m. March 4.