Few residents turn out for SAU budget session

AMHERST – The only thing missing from a public hearing on a proposed $1.4 million budget for fiscal 2005 for School Administrative Unit 39 was the public.

A couple of residents were in the audience, but the multipurpose room at the Clark School was mostly empty except for SAU board members Monday.

Hoping to get more public input before a vote takes place, the board delayed action on the budget and a proposed reorganization plan for the unit that includes Amherst, Mont Vernon and the Souhegan Cooperative districts until a meeting scheduled for Dec. 18 at Souhegan Cooperative High School.

According to School Superintendent Michael Ananis, the plan calls for about nine positions whose funding is spread out among individual districts to be incorporated into the SAU budget to increase efficiency and make the apportionment of costs consistent with state law.

Ananis said at the hearing that the reorganization plan must be approved by a 60 percent majority of the districts in the unit for it to become effective.

Amherst has about 58 percent of the students in the SAU, while Mont Vernon has about 8 percent and the Souhegan Cooperative district has about 33 percent. That means the School Board of at least one other district besides Amherst must approve the change before it can go into effect, he said.

The change would cost Amherst “a little more’’ – about $15,000 – in the SAU budget, while the other districts would pay a “little less,’’ Ananis said.

Overall, the costs would even out so that the impact on the SAU budget “would be zero,’’ he said.

The plan is to bring the salaries of about nine positions – including the director of special education, the assistant director of special education, the food services director and the assistant to the food services director – under the SAU budget.

Salaries for the positions are now spread out among the individual districts, but the people who hold them serve the SAU as a whole, so bringing their salaries under the single budget simplifies matters for everyone who runs the schools, Ananis said.

“From a management standpoint, we want people to be paid by the people they work for,’’ he said.

The SAU board took no action Monday on the $1.4 million budget proposed for the unit for the coming fiscal year.

The SAU board is made up of school board members from the districts in the unit. The board said it would bring the reorganization plan to the individual school boards and then vote on the budget and the plan Dec. 18.

According to Ananis, the proposed SAU budget is up about 11 percent and includes the cost of searching for his replacement. Ananis said he has moved out of state and will leave his superintendent’s job in June.

The search for a replacement and compensation for Ananis upon his leaving will cost about $26,000. Costs for software total about $19,000, state retirement benefits carry a $12,500 price tag and the budget also includes a 4 percent salary increase for SAU employees, he said.