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GWRSD budget finalized; 3.2 percent increase overall

January 17, 2019
WOLFEBORO — The Governor Wentworth Regional School District (GWRSD) rolled out its final draft of the Fiscal Year 2020 budget on Jan. 7 in the Kingswood Regional High School's lecture hall, marking the approach of the annual Deliberative Session, scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 2.

Chairman Jack Widmer announced that all three collective bargaining agreements were negotiated in time for the evening's hearing. Those final figures bring the bottom line up 3.2 percent, to $54 million.

Increases to the tax rate, which factors in not only the school budget but property values and the number of students from each town as well, are as follows (per $1,000 valuation): Brookfield, 42 cents; Effingham, 40 cents; New Durham, 45 cents; Ossipee, 44 cents; Tuftonboro, 19 cents; and Wolfeboro, 23 cents.

Among the drivers of the budget are wages and benefits for support staff, administrators, and teachers (75 percent of the total), infrastructure maintenance, school enrollment (2,426, up by 31 students), and debt service. Widmer added that changing social conditions have an impact on the budget as well.

"We have more students than ever living with parents who are addicted to opioids or living with other relatives due to addiction in the family. This has a serious impact on the children and the services they need, both in and out of school," he commented.

Several part time elementary school staff increases in special education and outreach counselors are a response to those increasing needs.

Widmer pointed out during the presentation of the preliminary budget in December that the state's yearly 4 percent reduction in stabilization grants has resulted in a $170,000 increase in this year's budget. During this hearing, he pointed to a total of $750,000 in the budget due to the state's "reneging" on support. It no longer contributes to the public pension fund. Those costs have been shifted to municipalities.

A significant change this year, said the chairman, was the switch to a consumer driven plan through School Care called the Yellow Plan with Choice Fund that allowed the district to save $183,684 in insurance costs for next year.

While the bargaining agreements include salary increases next year of 4 percent for support staff, 2 percent for administrators, and 2.25 percent for teachers in 2020, those increases are offset with employees' increased responsibility for cost sharing of insurance premiums. As salaries gradually increase in all three groups over three years (four years for teachers), their percent of cost sharing will also increase.

Residents of all the GWRSD towns: Brookfield, Effingham, New Durham, Ossipee, Tuftonboro, Wolfeboro and Middleton (tuitioned KRMS and KRHS students), are invited to attend the annual Deliberative Session – Saturday, Feb. 2, at 10 a.m. at the Kingswood Arts Center for the State of the School address, a detailed budget overview of revenue and expenses, and informational presentations on programs and activities at each of the schools.

Voters will vote on the warrant on Tuesday, March 12, at their Town Meetings or, in the case of Wolfeboro, an SB2 town, in the voting booth.

Garnet Hill
Martin Lord Osman
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