Districts in area eyeing job cuts

Some area school districts are looking at shedding jobs next year, but it’s not due to the recession, it’s due to enrollments.

The Amherst and Merrimack districts are looking to drop several positions next school year, according to preparations for annual meetings.

School districts throughout the state are seeing enrollments stagnant or decline, especially at the elementary level, as the children of baby boomers leave the school system.

The state’s overall public school enrollment has been slipping since 2001. New Hampshire’s low birth rate and relatively small number of young adults means that this pattern seems unlikely to reverse itself soon.

In Amherst, the Amherst and Souhegan school districts will look to cut nearly 20 positions next year because of decreased enrollment, officials said at budget and bond hearings on Wednesday night.

These positions are currently filled, officials said, although it’s not clear whether staff will be laid-off or if the positions will be eliminated through attrition.

In Merrimack, an expected decline of more than 100 students next school year has led administrators to propose eliminating five positions: two teachers from the upper elementary school, one at Thorntons Ferry elementary to keep student/teacher ratios consistent, and two from the high school, where student interest in French and family and consumer science is dwindling.

At Souhegan High School, attended by students from Amherst and Mont Vernon, 5-1/2 teaching jobs, two special education paraprofessionals, and 1-1/2 food service positions will be eliminated.

At Amherst School District, 5.3 teaching positions, one custodian, 1.3 food service worker position and 2.2 special education paraprofessionals are proposed for cuts.

Despite this, the proposed operating budgets are up slightly, fed by increases in costs such as health care, special education, and repayments on bonds.

Souhegan’s proposed budget stands at $17.7 million, which 2 percent or $362,000 higher than the current budget.

Amherst School District’s proposed budget is $23.2 million, an increase of 2 percent or $452,473 over the current budget.

Amherst school budgets will be voted on March 10, election day, with discussion at deliberative sessions next month.

Merrimack’s schedule is different than all other area communities; its budget will come up for voter approval April 14.