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School Board Public Budget Hearing

On Tuesday, January 14, 2020, the School Administrative Unit 74 (SAU74) held a public hearing for the 2020-2021 School Budget at the Barrington Middle School Auditoria. Besides the School Superintendent, select administrative staff, and the School Board itself, there were less than 20 people in attendance for this important hearing.

From the perspective of this reporter, the presentation of the proposed budget was well executed and well delivered. The budget for SAU74 encompasses children from the preschool age to high school. Because Barrington does not have its own high school, students can choose between Coe Brown in Northwood, Oyster River High School in Durham, or Dover High. The school district pays the tuition and transportation for high school attendance.

The handout provided the Goals and Priorities for the year, the Accomplishments from last year, which included a significant improvement in Math and Reading, and the fact that the Barrington Elementary School has been recognized for NH Excellence in Education (EDiesAward). The budget process itself was reviewed as well as facts and figures that help the viewer understand the budget numbers, such as Enrollment History, Projected Enrollment for 2020/2021, and cost per student for education at the Barrington Schools as well as Barrington’s three receiving high schools.

Of most interest was the Challenges slide. Noted were Systematic interventions in all schools, Increasing enrollment at the preschool and High School levels, the need for new revenue sources, and Mental Health support and resources (an area of need for all of New Hampshire).

To address the challenges of enrollment an additional preschool teacher position has been proposed. This cost will be partially offset by the ability to support more tuition students, but the primary drivers for the need of the teacher are the increased demand for 3-5-year-old children required special education supports and services.

Another proposed position is for a Social Worker for the district. This position is to bridge the gap between what the guidance counselors cover in the day to day of school, and the needs that children in more intense situations (clinical and social) have in our current society. Things like homelessness, social family breakdown, direct and indirect effects of substance abuse, interventional identification, and training in mental health situations like anxiety, and learning disabilities. Since these are societal issues impacting our entire country, the school district is looking for other funding streams to assist in covering these costs.

Other budget drivers include High School Tuition, Retirement Commitments, Contractual Obligations, a new Transportation Contract, Food Service Contract increase and the two new positions proposed. It should be noted that three of the grants traditionally received by SAU74 have decreased as well, one by a reallocation to support high schools, the other by a new state formula, and the third due to budgetary reasons.

There are four Capital Reserve Accounts – High School Tuition, Special Education, Technology, and Facilities. Money in these accounts can only be used for their respective designated purposes.

There are also four warrant articles up for consideration. The Paraprofessional Contract (3yr Collective Bargaining Agreement), A question if that article is defeated if the governing body can call a special meeting to address said contract’s cost items, a request to contribute additional money to both Facilities Capital Reserve and High School Tuition Capital Reserve utilizing, if applicable, only surplus funds from the budget and not to come from additional taxation.

Click on the following link for the presentation materials and budget proposal.