2017 School Budget Preview
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16 School St.
Allenstown, NH

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School Budget to Hit $10.4 Million Next Year

At the December 14, 2016 Budget Committee meeting, the School Board presented what they called "an optimum budget" for 2017-2018. The estimated cost of this budget is about $10.4 million, an increase of almost $600,000 more than the 2016 school budget. The tax impact is estimated to be an increase of $3.74/thousand. This will have a negative impact on the 576 residents over 65 (and probably on Social Security) and the 8.8% below poverty level (NH Employment Security town profile).

The default budget is not much better: $10,128,068.

Take a Close Look at the Budget

To see what this budget contains line by line, go to the following location on the town web site. Within the account numbers column, ".101" refers to AES (the Elementary School) and ".102" refers to ARD (the Dupont School). Account number 001.1100.561.102.000 is primarily for Pembroke Academy.

➤ 2017 School Budget

What You Might Do

If this strikes you, the taxpayer, as more than you can afford or more than you can accept, then the next step is to contact the members of the school board and voice your concerns. Go to the School Board web site for a list of the board members. If you have sufficient finances or believe that $10.4 million is an acceptable amount, then you can relax and vote for it in March 2017.

Another step is to contact Allenstown's state senator and two representatives. The state has decided to cut state aid to school districts by 4% each year, sticking local taxpayers with the cost of making up the difference.

➤ Find Your State Legislator

For those of you who want a lower school budget, there is still time to voice your concern. The Budget Committee meets on January 12, 2017 to vote to recommend or not recommend the school budget, or take any other action.

More Facts to Consider

Some interesting facts were presented at the meeting about the school population.

Total student enrollment: 570
Students at AES: 210
Students at ARD: 157
Students at Pembroke Academy (PA): 179
Students at PA Alt Skills/PACE/Out of District: 24
Total School Budget: $10,392,853.00
Tuition to other districts (mostly PA): $2,200,716.00

Cost to run AES and ARD = $10,392,853.00 - $2,200,716.00 = $8,192,137.00 (best estimate using published figures)

Dividing the cost for AES and ARD ($8,192,137.00) by the school population (210 + 157 = 367) results in a cost of

$22,322.00 per student.

Compare this to the average cost of NH private elementary schools:  $10,474.00.

A better outcome for taxpayers might be to give vouchers to parents for a local private school or subcontract with a private school to teach all of our students. Private schools do not take state or federal money Think about it. But of course, that is just one opinion.

Problems with the Student Population

The school board presentation showed quite clearly that the school system is dealing with several ongoing difficulties.

  • Allenstown Elementary School has been designated as a Title 1 school in need of improvement.
  • 20% of students have been identified as having Special Needs (called SPED in the school budget). This is a significant percentage that requires extra resources and tax money – a lot more for some students.
  • 63% of students were below average in the 2015-2016 Math Assessment. Are students taught to memorize the multiplication tables or to calculate the cost of purchases in their heads? One attendee suggested that, before a problem can be solved, you have to identify the cause or causes.

When school officials were asked what caused these poor results and how they were going to resolve all of these difficulties, there was no clear answer. It is possible that school officials hope that spending $600,000 more will solve them.

Problems with the Town Population

Adding to financial difficulties is the dwindling population. Allenstown has lost about 550 people in the last 14 years. (See the NH Employment Security town profile.) By comparison, surrounding towns have gained population, as shown in the following table.

Population Trends, 2000 to 2014
Year Allenstown Deerfield Epsom Pembroke
2000 4854 3700 4051 6917
2010 4322 4280 4566 7115
2014 4303 4330 4597 7121

A Few More Expenses to Watch for

The 2017 school warrant is expected to have three spending articles:

  • The $10.4 million School Budget as explained above.
  • Raises for the paraprofessionals. They received $25,000 last year but the warrant article was only for one year. Have you receive a raise lately? Many people in our town and neighboring towns are either long-term unemployed, underemployed, or living on Social Security. Those on Social Security know that they will get a zero net increase for 2017. The current economy is still slogging along in first gear, so how can you afford to give anyone in government service a raise? It simply increases a school budget that you can't afford.
  • A one-year contract for a School Resource Officer (SRO) is in the works at a cost of perhaps $70,000-80,000/year. Such a position apparently must be filled by a police officer. During negotiations this year, the selectmen urged the school board to fund the position for three years but the school board insisted on one year of funding. The last SRO quit in September because a one year contract made it unattractive to any candidate.

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