Souhegan School Board Prepares For FY17 Budget Season

To the Editor:

Most schools across the state are facing the challenge of how to adjust budgets so that cost per pupil more closely reflects the trend in declining enrollment numbers. Souhegan is no exception. We are in line with state averages for decreasing enrollments and increasing cost per pupil. In fact, in the past two years, our high school’s enrollment has increased by 4%, while our overall budget had a net decrease.

Our Budget Study Committee, made up of Board members and administrators, was started two years ago to help us plan ahead and gather the necessary data to make thoughtful decisions. We continue to meet every two weeks to look at salary structures, enrollment, class sizes, curriculum offerings, administrative structure, student/teacher ratios, and much more. In June, the committee will be making recommendations to the Board as to FY17 budget goals, and will work throughout the summer so that we have clear goals and strategies by the time the FY17 budget season is upon us.

Our Board also wanted to share with you two recent budget decisions that we made.

Because we are in a default budget, we must remove the dollar value amount equal to all one time expenditures contained in the the FY16 proposed operating budget. In order to reach this dollar value, the Board chose to eliminate costs that would have a long term impact in reducing our overall budget, rather than one time expenditures. First, the Board approved the elimination of an administrative Special Education Director’s position. We have been analyzing this position over the last couple of years, and feel it is the right time to make this change. We will work with the SAU 39 Special Education Leaders to fill the gaps that this elimination creates. Second, we have also eliminated a Special Education teaching position for next school year. Based on enrollments, we felt comfortable reallocating a 9th grade mini team and, therefore, eliminating the need for this position. We anticipate over $200,000 savings from these changes. These are our first steps toward a lower proposed FY17 budget. We will keep you informed as we move along in this process.

As a reminder, below are some of the steps we have taken over the last few years in response to declining enrollment. We realize that this is just a beginning. However, we have several stakeholders: namely students, tax payers, and staff. We need to be thoughtful and balance the needs of all these stakeholders as we consider major changes that will effect the budget.

? FY12: Closed one of our two cafeterias

? FY13: Negotiated a 2 year contract that included:

o .75% increase for professional staff over a 2 year period

o 1.25% increase for support staff over a 2 year period

o reduced prescription benefits, higher health deductibles, incentives to choose lower cost providers

? FY14: Eliminated 10.2 positions

? FY15: Eliminated an additional 3.5 positions

? FY15: negotiated a contract that included a 0% increase for all of our staff over the next two years, and additional incentives for a lower cost health plan

? Ongoing basis: Our administration has been reviewing program of studies and staff placements, as well as the reallocation or repurposing of facilities space.

What are some of the results of these first steps?

– Souhegan’s Cost Per Pupil decreased from FY13 to FY14, at a time when schools across the state were facing declining enrollment, and rising cost per pupil. Souhegan was one of the only, if not the only, school in the state to successfully reduce cost per pupil during this time.

– The high school’s average teaching facing ratio went from 67:1 to 82:1 (the number of students any one teacher sees in a trimester) since FY13. Over 40% of teachers actually see many more students than that average.

– Student/Teacher ratio went from 9.1 to 10 .7 during the same time period.

– Class sizes went up by 3 students, on average, per class since FY13.

– As mentioned above, our budget had a net decrease over the last 2 years, at which time our enrollment was increasing by 4 percent.

Again, our work is not complete, and we will continue to communicate as we move forward. We ask that you also communicate with us. The public is always welcome at our board meetings, and our e-mails are on the Souhegan High School and SAU website.

Thank you for your support.

Mary Lou Mullens, Chair; Howard Brown, Vice Chair; Steve Coughlan, Pim Grondstra, Chris Janson, Jeanne Ludt