During the next eight weeks, there’s going to be a lot of activity as the various school boards in the area complete the process associated with getting voter approval for the 2020-21 school year budgets.
The ConVal School District Administration began the process to develop our next budget last summer. The proposed budget was approved by the School Board on January 7th. The Deliberative Session Part I is scheduled for 6:00 pm on February 4th at the ConVal High School gym. Part II (voting) will be conducted on March 10 in the respective Town Halls.
The proposed gross budget is $50,565,103 – a 1.87% increase over the current school year. The School Board website contains a lot of information.
The ongoing challenges associated with minimizing increases in our operating budget and providing a quality education show no signs of abating. These include, but are not limited to, unfunded federal and state mandates, inadequate state funding for education, aging infrastructure, and well-deserved increases in staff salaries and benefits.
Hopefully, the NH state commission looking at education funding that recently started work will come up with some equitable and innovative options to reduce the burden on property taxes.
These challenges are in addition to our slow but steady decline in enrollment – which raises the following perennial questions: why isn’t the budget going down instead of up? How long can the District maintain our current “one high school, two middle schools, and eight elementary schools” model? When is “small too small”? The answers are not easy and are beyond the scope of this article, but the questions remain valid and will continue to be discussed for the foreseeable future. No decisions have been made and no schools have been “targeted”. We’re simply doing our jobs by looking at alternatives in the event we reach the point where we’ll need to bring a proposal to the voters.
Of more immediate concern is the need to address our aging infrastructure. We’re working on a long-range plan that will likely include a proposed infrastructure bond for voter consideration next year and, hopefully, subsequent partial compensation through NH state “Building Aid” for which we recently submitted our application.
The 2020-21 Capital Improvement Plan includes $1.22M worth of projects. We’re proposing several options to fund these: the operating budget ($0.08M) and more aggressive use of our Capital and Athletic Trust Funds ($1.14M). Note: The plan did include a proposed warrant article for additional appropriations (a $0.54M “paving” Warrant Article) but the Board subsequently decided to defer until next year.
The proposed budget also includes an expansion of our current pre-K program at three schools. This will allow additional students to attend and will include an all-day program for 4-year-olds.
There will be a warrant article regarding a new long-term solar power project for installation on the high school property. While the savings expected to be achieved won’t solve the larger District issues mentioned above, voter approval of this project will allow the broader CONVAL community to demonstrate our commitment to the broader global challenge associated with climate change.
The Board and Administration will continue to work to deliver a quality education at reasonable cost. We encourage your participation in both the discussions at the Deliberative Session Part I and in voting on March 10.
Chairman, Budget & Property Committee
ConVal School Board