LeFebvre not suppoting school budget

Conway Municipal Budget Committee Chair Jim LeFebvre is not supporting the Conway School Board's proposed operating budget. (DAYMOND STEER PHOTO)

CONWAY — While most members of the Municipal Budget Committee support the Conway School Board’s proposed operating budget for the 2021-22 school year, chair Jim LeFebvre does not.

He is backing the default budget, which is roughly $238,000 less than what school district officials recommend.

Budgeteers held their lone public hearing on Feb. 10 in Loynd Auditorium at Kennett High School and endorsed all 10 of the school board’s warrant articles, including a $1.3 million bond request to replace Kennett High's 511 faulty windows.

While the vote was 8-4 on the windows (see below to see who voted), only LeFebvre and Bob Drinkhall opposed the proposed operating budget of $38,653,496.

If voters on April 6 reject the proposed budget, the school district would be forced to work with default budget for the next school year.

In a phone interview Thursday, LeFebvre acknowledged that the difference between the proposed and default budgets is only .61 percent of 1 percent, "which is practically no reduction at all. My argument would be that something less is better than what is being proposed.”

He added: “In a $38 million budget, if you can’t afford a cut of $238,000, it’s either an extremely efficient budget or it’s something else.”

The default budget begins with last year's general fund budget of $37,740,154. The first installment of a three-year negotiated contract with the Conway Education Association (approved last April) of $133,498 is added for a total approved budget of $37,873,652.

From that figure, one-time 2020-21 expenses are deducted, such as the $12,000 gym divider at Kennett Middle School.

Lilli Gilligan, director of budget and finance for SAU 9, shared a “plus/minus proposed 2021-22 budget versus the adopted budget for 2020-21” with the school board Jan. 25.

The second year of the Conway Education Association's negotiated agreement of $600,719 must be added, along with the third year of the Conway Education Support Personnel negotiated agreement ($82,912); health, dental, life, unemployment and workers comp insurance (a deduction of $470,397); retirement — New Hampshire Retirement System and FICA ($778,230); school resource officer ($9,165); and the PowerSchool database ($31,299).

Special education: Contracts and tuition (deduction of $223,051).

District-wide: Debt service (deduction of $98,394); SAU share (deduction of $11,625); insurance and property liability ($12,203); approved early retirements ($42,125); and grant funding anticipated (a deduction of $100,192).

Gilligan said the “total delta” to the 2020-21 approved budget is $540,994. This is added to the total approved budget of $37,873,652 to come up with a default budget of $38,414,646.

“All of the insurance changes to the plan did create a default budget that is lower than the budget we have presented as the general fund budget,” Gilligan said.

Other articles include:

1. Election of officers. Courtney Burke's and Randy Davision's three-year terms are expiring in April. A one-year term also is opening up as Bill Aughton was appointed last spring to fill out the second of Cheri Sullivan's three-year term after Sullivan moved away.

2. A $1.3 million bond to replace high school windows. The first year’s interest on the five-year bond is projected to be $32,500. Passage requires 60 percent of voters to agree. Recommended by school board, 5-1-1 (Joe Mosca in the minority; Jessica Whitelaw abstained), and the budget committee, 8-4 (Drinkhall, Lefebvre, Peter Donohoe and Frank Jost in the minority).

2A. (Only if No. 2 fails.) It seeks $750,000 to be added to the Expendable Trust Fund (new Kennett High Facilities Maintenance Fund) to replace the windows. About $493,727 would be offset by sending towns through the tuition agreement. Recommended by school board, 6-0, and budget committee, 8-4 (Eric Corbett, Ellin Leonard, Bill Aughton and Donohoe in the minority).

3. Seeks $54,443 for the Kennett High School facilities maintenance fund, with $35,840 offset by sending towns through the tuition agreement. Recommended by school board, 7-0, and budget committee, 12-0.

4. Seeks $17,086 for Kennett Middle School facilities maintenance fund. About $1,476 would be offset by sending towns through current tuition agreement. Recommended by school board, 7-0, and budget committee, 12-0.

5. Seeks $9,900 for the elementary school facilities maintenance fund. Approximately $1,4125 would be offset by sending towns through current tuition agreement. Recommended by school board, 7-0, and budget committee, 12-0.

6. A new three-year collective bargaining agreement with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. In 2021-22, the estimated increase is $66,648; for 2022-23, it is $66,785; and for 2023-24, it is $42,248. Recommended by school board, 7-0, and budget committee, 12-0.

7. The operating budget.

8. Seeks $74,000 for funding of Project SUCCEED programs at the three elementary schools. Recommended by school board, 7-0, and budget committee, 12-0.

9. Seeks $250,000 to be placed in an equipment/school bus capital reserve fund. Recommended by school board, 7-0, and budget committee, 11-1 (Donohoe in the minority).

10. Seeks $110,000 to resurface the track and tennis courts at Kennett High School. Recommended by school board, 7-0, and budget committee, 9-3 (Corbett, Drinkhall and Lefebvre in the minority).

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