Originally published in The Weekly Packet, February 27, 2014
Surry school board approves 2014-15 budget
Increase matched by higher revenue
by Anne Berleant
For the first time in five years, the school budget is up, not down. Board members approved a 4.6 percent or $106,847 increase on February 25, for a total budget of $2,363,242. However, a higher state subsidy and a $400,000 carryover means taxes should not rise to cover the budget.
“We’ve been getting a lot of revenues,” said Superintendent Mark Hurvitt. “That’s good.”
This year, Surry’s share of state school subsidy was $190,272, about $70,000 more than anticipated. This surplus amount becomes “carryover”-unspent funds from the budget that accrues annually and is used as a cushion and towards future budgets. Last year, out of a $832,000 carryover, the board used $350,000 as revenue.
“Surry is in good financial position, compared to the other four towns [in Union 93],” Hurvitt said.
This year, not only is that number higher, but the board is projecting a higher state subsidy to avoid such a large carryover next year.
“That’s what keeps getting us into trouble,” Hurvitt said. “We book low and it comes in high.”
Much of the 2014-15 budget increase comes from “one shot” expenditures on capital improvements, said Principal Cathy Lewis.
The second and third phases of a three-phase security system adds $10,000; a new school communication system adds $8,500; a floor stripping machine adds $2,900; and a defibrillator-a cost to be shared with the town- adds $2,500.
“We’re spending a lot of money,” said member Laura Pellerano. “Everything we’ve done is important.”
One new program expense is the after-school program, started this spring, at a cost of $22,974 in salaries and supplies. Currently 31 students attend the three-day-a-week program, which offers homework, outside play and structured activities.
The remainder of the increase is spread across the budget, with the only notable decrease in special education-down $40,347 or 8.8 percent.
“One reason [the budget] is up is we haven’t cut any programs,” said member Pat Hollenberg.
The budget has gone through six drafts. Before final approval, Chairman Marlene Tallent, Hollenberg and Pellerano considered whether to vote in the absence of members Don Driscoll and Monica Torrey-Hardy.
“If there were issues with this budget, we’d have people streaming in,” said Hurvitt.
The board vote was 3-0. Citizens will vote on the proposed budget at town meeting on April 28.
In other business, a new choice in spring sports may come to the school next year. The board approved adding track, despite concerns that it could siphon students away from baseball and softball and that finding a coach could prove difficult.
“It offers something for kids who don’t have the skills for softball or baseball,” said Hollenberg. “If it doesn’t go, it doesn’t go.”
Finally, letters mailed to 64 students from eighth to 12th grade invite them to eat pizza and fill out a survey on their elementary school experience on March 11. Those who attend will receive a $5 gift card for the Surry Store. The goal, Hollenberg said, is for the board to collect information to help in the development of programs and practices-or “to give children a voice [for] a positive impact on their education.”
Surry school board: Thursday, March 6, 4 p.m., at the school