Learn more about proposed budget before voting March 10

To the Editor:

Student enrollment is a major topic at school board meetings of late. At present, enrollment is down in SAU 39 as a whole, as we reflect the aging population of our towns. Our school boards and administrations have responded accordingly to this decline. Souhegan High School, however, has not yet seen the dramatic drop that the lower grades have seen. After an initial drop between FY06-FY10 (from our peak enrollment of 1,045), our student population has remained steady (current enrollment is 842). Souhegan High School’s enrollment actually went up by 4 percent over the past two years, and is projected to remain relatively steady until 2018.

The Souhegan board has been working with the administration to plan for declining enrollments for the last four years, and has been taking measured steps to reduce costs as changing enrollments have allowed. Here is a brief chronology of the steps taken so far, and planning that is underway to prepare for potential future declines:

? FY12: Closed one of our two cafeterias.

? FY13: Negotiated a 2 year contract that included:

A .75% salary increase for professional staff over a 2-year period.

A 1.25% salary increase for support staff over a 2-year period.

A health plans that reflected reduced prescription benefits, introduced higher health deductibles, provided incentives to choose lower cost providers, and for healthy living choices.

? FY14: Eliminated 10.2 positions.

? FY14: Formed a Budget Study Committee that meets throughout the year to examine our finances on a continual basis. Some of the many topics currently under review are: our budget review process as a whole; facilities usage plan; and the incorporation of our SAU Board’s Strategic Plan into Souhegan planning and operations.

? FY15: Eliminated 3.5 positions.

? FY15: Negotiated a contract with a 0% increase for staff over the next two years, with incentives for a lower cost health plan.

? Ongoing: Our administration has been reviewing program of studies and staff placements to meet student needs with the minimum required staffing.

We feel privileged to work with a forward-thinking administration who ensure our students are prepared for whatever future they choose. We would like to especially thank our staff, whose professionalism is second to none, and who are more than willing to work with our board to control costs, while maintaining the high level of education our residents expect.

Voting on the FY15-16 budget will be held on Tuesday, March 10. Amherst residents vote at Souhegan High School, 6 a.m.-8 p.m. Mont Vernon residents vote at the Mont Vernon Village School, 7 a.m.-7 p.m.

The Souhegan Cooperative School Board,

Mary Lou Mullens, Amherst, Chair

Fran Harrow, Amherst, Vice-Chair

Howard Brown, Mont Vernon, Secretary

Steve Coughlan, Amherst

Pim Grondstra, Mont Vernon

Chris Janson, Amherst

Peter Maresco, Amherst