Souhegan District plan calls for 5% increase

AMHERST – In an attempt to alleviate some of the dryness associated with budget hearings, School Board Chairwoman Addie Hutchison launched Monday’s public hearing by reciting a humorous poem about how budgets are set.

And then the Souhegan Cooperative School Board got down to business.

The Souhegan Cooperative School District’s proposed operating budget for 2004-05 is approximately $13.5 million, about a 5 percent increase over last year’s budget of $12.9 million.

If the budget is approved by Amherst and Mont Vernon voters, it would add an estimated $1.41 per $1,000 of assessed property value in Amherst, adding $282 to the annual bill for a $200,000 home. The school tax rate in Mont Vernon would go up $1.61 per $1,000 of assessed value, adding $322 to the annual bill of a $200,000 home.

Teacher salaries are up on average by 4 percent, as are the wages of the custodial staff. Health insurance for employees is up an estimated 18 percent.

The district has added several new positions, including a technology position, a half-time physical education/wellness teacher, a half-time custodian for the high school’s new addition and a half-time guidance counselor.

The last time a guidance position was added was for the 1997-98 school year, Hutchison said. At the time, the counselor-to-student ratio was 1 to 168. It is 1 to 211.

On the revenue side, Hutchison announced the district plans on returning to the practice of accepting out-of-district students. During the next school year, the district plans on accepting up to 10 students who would pay about $10,000 in annual tuition.

With the high school’s new annex, there shouldn’t be too much of a strain on space or on teachers, as long as the new students aren’t in the same grade, Hutchison said.

If voters do not approve the proposed budget, a default budget of about $13.3 would go into effect.

The deliberative session for the Souhegan Cooperative School District will be Feb. 5 at 7 p.m. in the Souhegan High School theater.

Lynn Tryba can be reached at 594-6402 or