School field trips set to go in Merrimack after school board approves funding

MERRIMACK – With a bump in available cash as a result of revised state budget figures, members of the School Board have voted to restore more than $60,000 in district spending for field trips and classroom furniture.

Administrators had planned to freeze funding for the out-of-school trips this year as they faced up to $1 million in increased contributions to the state Retirement System. But the revised costs, issued last week by the Retirement System, have left the district with lower expenditures – $220,000, according to district administrators.

Board members opted to restore some of the frozen funds, voting to spend about $61,000. But they left more than $800,000 in spending freezes intact.

Preparing for the anticipated cost increases, district administrators worked in March to identify $1.5 million in services to freeze over the coming year. Among other programs and services, they cut 14 school positions, including six paraprofessionals, two school psychologists and a high school French teacher, and they froze funding for music and sports equipment, as well as field trips and classroom furniture.

Under the revised numbers, the district will have to contribute about $220,000 to the Retirement System – significantly less than the expected $1 million cost.

Administrators welcomed the news, but they also warned the School Board about restoring the spending too quickly.

Retirement System managers, who already have revised their budget figures twice this year, could make changes again, making the cuts necessary again, Superintendent Marge Chiafery said.

“It was certainly much better news than we had anticipated, but I think it’s just this notion of the fluidity of the topic,” she said.

Heeding the administrators’ words, the board opted not to restore funds for athletic supplies, among other items. But they did agree to return $35,000 for field trips and $26,000 for furniture.

District funds will now contribute to arts, science and social studies field trips across the district’s four elementary schools, as well as new student furniture for the four elementary buildings. Board members said they’ll consider restoring further funding later this year.

Jake Berry can be reached at 594-6402 or