District session eyeing $63m budget

MERRIMACK – A $63 million spending proposal to pay for Merrimack schools next year is on the table tonight.

The school Budget Committee will host a public hearing on the plan and make its final recommendations on the proposed $63.62 million budget.

That number will likely be cut back by $20,000 right away, as bids to repair part of the high school’s roof came in lower than expected.

Assuming the committee approves that measure, the budget would be $63.6 million, about $883,000 – or 1.4 percent – above current spending.

Health-insurance costs, retirement costs, the current teachers contract, rate increases for out-of-district special education placements and a built-in increase in the transportation contract make up most of the increase, administrators have said.

>>Town Meeting ‘09<< They also have highlighted three other significant cost items, including $150,000 for computers, to replace 8-year-old machines in laboratories of the four elementary schools; $99,000 for a new library automation system; and $85,000 to staff programs targeting at-risk students. Two separate warrant articles are also up for consideration. One is $287,936 in salary and benefits for the support staff union, which represents custodians, mechanics, paraprofessionals, food service workers, assistants and tutors. The other is $150,000 to fund a roofing reserve account. How this would affect taxpayers' pockets has yet to be seen. The school's portion of the tax rate is difficult to determine right now because it is based on state aid for education, Business Administrator Matt Shevenell said. If you go: Aid for the Merrimack School District is estimated to be about $953,000 next year, he said. If that's the case, the proposed budget and warrant articles wouldn't increase the school's current tax rate of $11.50 per $1,000 in assessed home value. That would mean a household assessed at $300,000 would pay $3,450 in property taxes to support local schools. After tonight's hearing, the spending proposal heads back to the school board for a final vote Feb. 16. Deliberative Session is scheduled for March 3. Voting day is April 14.