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Kearsarge to Discuss School Budget

School District Will Also Talk Over Performance-Based Teacher Pay Raises

Voters in the Kearsarge Regional School District will meet Saturday to discuss a new budget and two new union contracts, including a proposed three-year deal for district teachers that would introduce performance-based pay raises.

That would be “a first for the district,” said Dan Wolf of Newbury, N.H., chairman of the school board. “It’s something we’ve been working on for many years.”

The teachers contract is on the agenda for Saturday morning’s deliberative session, where district voters will finalize questions for the March 12 ballot. The district comprises Bradford, N.H., Newbury, New London, Springfield, Sutton, Warner and Wilmot.

Under the terms of the three-year deal, which Wolf said has been “overwhelmingly” ratified by the Kearsarge Regional Education Association, teachers would get a 1 percent cost-of-living raise in 2013-14 and 2014-15. In the contract’s third year, 2015-16, teachers would be provided raises based on performance levels.

“We’re very excited about the teacher contract,” Wolf said. “This is clearly the first in Kearsarge, and one of the first in the state, to have implemented a performance-based pay contract.”

Last year, Kearsarge voters approved a one-year contract for the teachers that included a roughly 1 percent raise. The new three-year contract is estimated to cost the district nearly $456,000 next year, nearly $471,000 in 2014-15 and $542,000 in 2015-16.

Also on Saturday’s agenda is a new two-year contract for the Para Educators at Kearsarge, whose current three-year deal was approved in 2010 and will expire at the end of the school year.

The new contract would provide a 1 percent pay raise each year; Wolf said the union has already ratified the deal. The contract is estimated to cost the district an additional $72,000 next year and $295,000 in 2014-15.

The biggest item Saturday is the district’s budget for the 2013-14 school year. The school board’s recommended budget totals a little more than $37.3 million, a 0.9 percent increase in spending from the current year’s budget. The district’s Municipal Budget Committee has recommended a budget containing about $38,000 less in spending, which comes out to a 0.8 percent spending increase.

According to Business Administrator Larry LeBoeuf, the budget committee eliminated the school board’s proposals for a one-to-one computing pilot program and to partially fund the eighth grade’s annual trip to Washington, D.C.

Both district budgets include a 9 percent increase in health insurance costs, two additional teachers for a new full-day kindergarten program and an increase in retirement costs of more than $443,000 — “a huge hit,” Wolf said, as the state downshifts public-employee pension system costs.

“If we didn’t have the retirement (increase), we’d be decreasing the budget,” Wolf said.

Spending cuts came from a new transportation contract, reduced utility costs and a roughly $369,000 reduction in special-education costs due to fewer out-of-district student placements, among other things.

“A lot of little things have kicked in,” Wolf said, “and we’re excited about that.”

The budgets and the two union contracts will go on the March 12 ballot for approval by voters, but one item will be decided at Saturday’s meeting: A proposal to allow the district to retain some surplus money each year for future needs. The policy reflects a recent change in state law and is recommended by the district’s school board and budget committee.

Wolf said, if approved by voters this weekend, the new policy would remain in effect indefinitely unless repealed by voters at some future date.

The deliberative session will begin 9 a.m. Saturday at the Kearsarge Regional High School, 457 North Road in Sutton. Additional information is available on the district’s website, kearsarge.org.