Merrimack school session tonight

MERRIMACK – Voters will take hold of the largest taxpayer-funded entity in town tonight as the Merrimack School District holds its Deliberative Session.

The School Board and a separate school budget committee have endorsed a $63.6 million spending plan for next year, which is about $883,000, or 1.4 percent, above this year’s budget.

If the $953,000 estimate for state aid comes to fruition, then the budget and other spending items won’t increase the district’s tax rate of $11.50 per $1,000 of assessed value next year, according to business administrator Matt Shevenell.

It would mean the owner of a home valued at $300,000 would pay $3,450 in school property taxes.

While health insurance, retirement costs, increases to the teachers, transportation contracts and rate increases for out-of-district special education placements are the main drivers for the budget being higher than last year, administrators have highlighted other significant spending items.

The budget includes $150,000 for computers, which would replace 8-year-old machines in laboratories at the four elementary schools; $99,000 for a new library automation system, replacing one that is outdated and for which upgrades no longer exist; and $85,000 to staff programs targeting at-risk students at several grade levels.

The budget proposal hasn’t had many hang-ups this year. Only a half dozen people attended the school budget committee’s public hearing last month, and none of them commented at the microphone on any aspect of the spending plan or warrant articles.

One of the two articles with money attached is $287,936 in salary and benefits for the support staff union, which includes custodians, mechanics, paraprofessionals, assistants, tutors and food service workers.

The one-year deal includes a 3.75 percent pay increase, budget committee Chairman Stan Heinrich has said, a figure that is offset by a 1 percent increase in employee health insurance contributions.

The other money article is $150,000 – or 50 percent of the year-end surplus, whichever is lower – to set aside in a roofing repair fund.

Voters will cast ballots on the school district warrant plan April 14.