After some lengthy debate, the Londonderry School Board voted 4-1 to increase the superintendent’s proposed budget in order to fund teaching aides in the district’s elementary schools.
Board member Steve Young voted against the budget increase, expressing throughout the Jan. 3 budget hearing concern for residents who are struggling financially.
“I’m trying to make sure their taxes stay as reasonable as they possibly can,” he said.
The superintendent’s proposed $65.8 million budget included a cut to funding for elementary school teaching aides, which Superintendent Nathan Greenberg said he did not believe would be detrimental to student learning because of all the additional support Londonderry classrooms have—such as special education assistants and reading specialists, who help ensure students are getting the one-on-one instruction they need.
“It sounds to me the prudent thing to do is to go with what the superintendent proposed originally,” said Todd Joncas, a member of the Budget Committee. “No one likes to cut heads, but it sounds like that’s the prudent thing to do."
Despite Greenberg’s assessment that cutting teaching aides wouldn’t affect the district’s elementary school program, board members remained concerned that the budget cut would eliminate an important and valuable service for students who need it.
Member John Robinson said that although elementary school principals told members of the board they could find a way “to move people around” and “make it happen,” he’s “not 100 percent certain they can.
“I’m not prepared to take that resource away from the kids,” he said.
“There are lots of families in financial difficulty. My own husband was out of work for 14 months. However, I’m not willing to compromise continually cutting the budget to where it’s affecting students in the classroom,” Vice Chairman Nancy Hendricks said. “If we need to make further adjustments to the budget, I’d like to see them made in ways that don’t affect students in the classroom.”
Ultimately, the board agreed to a compromise Greenberg suggested. The board voted to increase the superintendent’s budget by $250,000, with 42 hours of elementary school assistant time to be funded by the increase.
The cost of the additional teaching aide hours is $125,000, which restores about half the teaching aide hours provided in classrooms now.
Greenberg said if a need arises in the elementary schools for teaching aids next year, he could come back to the board and request funding for that additional support.
That cost will be subsidized in part by $66,400 in additional revenue from tuition for 19 out-of-district students who weren’t included in the Superintendent’s budget. The district must find about $58,000 in the budget to offset the approved $250,000 budget increase and to ensure the approved $66.05 million budget results in a 49 cent impact on the tax rate.
The board moved the budget with $1 allocated for security, which is to be amended after careful consideration of resources needed to fulfill the district’s commitment to evaluate, and improve where necessary, security programs in place. The board will consider funding for security at their Jan. 22 meeting.
In addition to passing the amended budget, the board approved with a 5-0 vote the proposed capital lease agreement at $238,900.
Any further amendments to the budget may be considered at the board’s budget public hearing scheduled for Jan. 10 at 7 p.m.