Newport School Budget Previewed
Fall Revenues Likely to Reduce Tax Rate in Warrant, Says Superintendent
The Newport School Board will present its proposed budget on Tuesday, Feb. 6, starting at 6:00 p.m. in the high school gymnasium. “The proposed operating budget for AY2018-19 is $18,641,564. This is a significant increase from the current budget of $17,711,238,” said Superintendent Cindy Gallagher.
According to Gallagher, “Most of the $930,320 increase is due to increases in special education funding. The budget includes funding for students who changed to out-of-district placements after the AY2017-18 budget was adopted and for two special education teachers who were funded through the special education grant last year and were moved into the operating budget for AY2018-19. The proposed budget also includes funds for autism services in the middle high school.”
The budget also provides for an additional elementary teacher, and a technology integrator to support district wide-instruction and it includes funds for social emotional services in the elementary school.
Gallagher said, “Last year, we worked very hard to level out the special education budget for the current 2017-18 budget. We reviewed all the out-of-district placements and contracted services and made the appropriate reductions. The problem is that we never know who will change placement. This year alone, we’ve added more than eight students to out of district placements who were not budgeted for in 2017-18.”
The default budget is $18,076,338. The default budget includes adjustments for the changes in the obligations for the Newport Teachers Association, the Newport Support Staff, changes in the cleaning contract and adjustment for special education. “The Newport School Board presented estimated revenues of $11,219,320,” said Gallagher. “This is $748,840 lower than last year. This includes an estimated $46,200 for the new Kindergarten Aid. There is a $122,539 reduction in State Revenue and a $125,682 reduction in local revenues. The result is that that Newport community will need to raise an estimated $7,422,244 this year to fund the operating budget.
“Preliminary estimates have the local tax rate increasing $3.89 per $1,000 to support the operating budget increase for the next fiscal year that starts on July 1. The projected tax impact of the default is estimated to increase the local tax rate by $2.58 per $1,000.”
The warrant has 11 additional articles, five of which have tax impact.
Article 4 is a one year agreement with the Newport Teachers Association. It includes a $140,382 increase. Article 6 is a one-year agreement with the Newport Support Staff. The Teacher Contract will have an estimated tax impact of $.33 and the Support Staff will have an estimated tax impact of $.21.
Article 8 requests that the district raise and appropriate $233,000 for an Autism Program in the Middle High School. This has an estimated $.54 tax impact.
The Autism Program in Richards Elementary School is new in 2017-18. It is a successful partnership with the New England Center for Children, said Gallagher. “While we have budgeted for additional services for those students promoting to the middle school, this warrant will allow us to guarantee that those students receive consistent services. It will also allow us to provide additional services for the middle high school students who are already in the building. By comparison, the cost of one student to go out of district is approximately $170,000.”
Article 13 requests up to $50,000 to deposit to the Unanticipated Educational Service Expendable Trust fund, and Article 14 requests up to $50,000 to deposit to the Transportation Capital Reserve Fund to provide for the future purchases of buses. These articles rely upon fund balances at the end of the year. Each article has an estimated $.12 tax impact by reducing the fund balance that would be returned to the tax payers.
If all articles pass, the final estimated tax impact is approximately, $5.21.
Gallagher asked the community to be cautious about raising the alarm about a high tax rate. She said, “Every year we face the same problem in February. People raise the red flag and say that the district costs too much. I’m not sure how you could say anything else when you are looking at that simple math. It is unfortunate. However, the proposed tax impact is merely an estimate based on a math calculation. Historically, the District announces the tax impact in the warrant, only to reduce this with excess revenues in the Fall. The district is working very hard to balance both the expense and revenue sides of our accounting. The Board has control over local revenues and has made conservative estimates. They budgeted according to the sending district’s guaranteed numbers. These are usually lower than the total number of students who attend, and all the excess revenue is returned to the taxpayers.”
Article 11 ask the community to approve a 25-year agreement for solar power, including a solar array on the roof of the Richards Elementary Roof. There is no appropriation in this article. The article is contingent upon the Solar Power Article passing at the Newport Town Meeting in Spring 2018.
Article 12 asks to authorize the District to establish a contingency fund to retain up to 2.5% of unassigned general funds at the end of any fiscal year. This money is retained for the sole purpose of reducing the tax rate or emergencies to be approved by the Department of Education under RSA 32:11.