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  • Writer's pictureSusan

Budget Advisory Committee (BAC) Rejects Proposed ERSCD Budget With a Vote of 7-1

The priorities of any organization can be understood in two ways: 1) reading the published mission statement or 2) reviewing their budget. Leaders, or in our case SAU16 school administrators, spend money on the projects and initiatives they value. Putting together a budget provides the framework for:

· Who an organization wants to be

· Where an organization seeks to have the most impact

· How an organization intends to meet their end goals

What does our SAU value? Where does our SAU intend to focus its resources? Let’s review the most recent ERSCD proposed budget of $65,031,705.74.

Table 1: Proposed Cuts

Table 2: Proposed Increases

The overall ERSCD proposed % change is (0.40%) or ($262,043.88)

A few items worth contemplating:

  • Administration seeks to defund Great Bay Charter School, disrupting the education of 150 students (at least half from our SAU) to save 0.0024% overall spend. This reduction was communicated as “fiscally responsible” by Mollie O’Keefe. Restoring full funding to Great Bay Charter School was widely supported by the BAC.

  • The Joint Board overwhelmingly approved 3% salary increases for Central Office (SAU 16 Budget)—for the second year in a row, while our ERSCD teachers are positioned to enter their second year of teaching with no contract/increases. The SAU16 budget has increased by 30% in the past five years to $2.8M.

  • DEIJ position removed from ERSCD budget into SAU16 budget has a ripple effect—costs must be absorbed by elementary school budgets.

  • To date, multiple paraprofessional positions remain unfilled. An informal salary comparison created by a BAC member indicates obtaining employment at Chipotle or Starbucks is more lucrative than a position working directly with our students.

  • Teachers are entering into the second year with no contract. Additionally, teachers at CMS must continue working this year while speculating whose position will be eliminated next year. During the budget presentation, interim principal Eris Hersey stated she has no plan for how she will accomplish this reduction at this time.

  • The significant reduction in enrollment was discussed at length during these meetings. Over 200 students have left CMS with no stated intention to return. A BAC member presented an analysis of enrollment data illustrating the decline using average daily membership (ADM) from the NH Department of Education. Another BAC member provided 2019 NH census data to illustrate the enrollment decrease is not reflective of the 9% population growth in the six towns of our SAU.

  • The BAC analyzed spending of unreserved funds over the past six years, results provided by BAC member research below:

  • One BAC member stated as a CMS parent she is very happy with the quality of education being provided and believes the students have made academic improvement under the direction of the interim principal.

  • Multiple BAC members communicated additional budget reductions based upon the unreserved spending data. A recommendation was made that the school board track the spending of unreserved funds and provide a total at the end of each year.

Historically, the BAC has approved the proposed budget as presented. This year was the first time that not only was the budget rejected, but resoundingly so. The proposed budget, along with the feedback of the BAC is now in the hands of Chair Helen Joyce, Vice Chair Paul Bauer and the rest of the ERSCD Cooperative School Board for review on December 7.

I was one of the BAC members who voted to reject the proposed budget, not necessarily on the merits of the overall number, but based upon where and how the proposed dollars would be spent. As a BAC member, parent, and taxpayer, I value strengthening our public schools through compensating teachers and paraprofessionals who inarguably have the greatest impact on our students. I cannot morally or philosophically support disrupting the education of 150 students at Great Bay Charter School to yield a negligible net gain, which was presented by our current administration as fiscally responsible. We now know what our administration values—their salaries. The next question to be answered is what will our school board value?

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