Proposal is due for H/B schools

The Hollis/Brookline Cooperative School District will hold a public budget hearing Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Hollis/Brookline Middle School.

At the hearing, registered voters will be given a presentation of the proposed operating budget and other warrant articles, and they will have the opportunity to discuss each item on the warrant.

While voters are urged to provide input, the final decisions on the proposed budget will be made by the School Board and the budget committee.

The school board’s budget committee had asked for a budget with “zero increases.”

“But we’re still bringing that (current) number down,” School Board Chairman Tom Enright said. “It will go lower.”

Enright said that if the school district and budget committee are to get on the same page, the board will have to cut programs.

The way the process works, if there is a disparity between the School Board and the school district budget committee, the budget committee decides on the budget to be presented to voters at the annual School District Meeting in March.

Here is a look at the warrant that will be presented at Wednesday’s public meeting:

The proposed cooperative school district operating budget for 2009-10 fiscal year is $19.17 million, which is $290,589 or 1.54 percent, more than the current budget.

Enright said four items are responsible for the increase. The four major costs increases in the budget are:

$137,000 for benefits.

$110,000 for special education.

$36,000 for the School Administrative Unit assessment, which is the amount the cooperative school district contributes to the SAU, shared with the Hollis and Brookline school districts.

$43,000 for transportation.

Enright said the proposed budget is a work in progress until it is presented at the annual School District Meeting.

Nonetheless, the town is projecting that revenues will fall as a result of a construction slowdown: usually property valuations increase by at least 2 percent, but this year they are expected to go up 0.5 percent due to a lack of new building or additions to existing buildings.

In addition, income from fees for new vehicles, boats and current use penalties are expected to be lower than last year, Enright said.

Added to that is the likelihood that state education aid will decrease, given a roughly $100 million budget deficit at the state level.

“The revenue pictures are bleak,” Enright said.

He said the estimated school portion of the tax rate will be available at the budget hearing Wednesday.

The school district’s proposed budget has one article, $44,000 to increase salary and benefits for support staff.

Professionals belong to one union; support staff, to another. The proposed increase for support staff would affect about 40 SAU employees, Enright said.

He said the professional contract, which represents 120 teachers, is at an impasse. This means, teachers will be working under a “continuing contract” next year and will negotiate again next year.

Last year’s budget was $18,875,795