Proposed School Budget Increase Considers Impact on Taxpayers

Reduced state funding presents challenges

By Aimee Menard

The Andover School Board and the administration at SAU 46 have been collaborating to craft a budget to bring forward that effectively meets the needs of Andover students while being mindful of the impact on the taxpayer’s wallet. 

The 2022-2023 proposed budget is $6,333,987.  This is an increase of $121,580, or 1.96% from the 2021-2022 total approved budget of $6,212,407.  Determining this proposed number did not come without challenges. This article will help to overview those challenges.

Challenging cost drivers in personnel expenses, tuition, and transportation headlined much of the conversation. 

Each year in the fall, the district receives the annual “not to exceed” percentage from our health care provider.  This percentage is based on the previous year’s program usage.  We have seen percentages anywhere from 3.7% to 10% in previous years; however, this year we were provided our highest increase at 12.2%. 

Throughout the budget, you will see this percentage budgeted in each of the function’s health and dental benefits lines.  Overall, this is an increase of $51,082.  

Also included in this proposed budget are the voter-approved Collective Bargaining Agreements with the AE/MS unions. Year Two of the Andover Education Association contract is $45,231, and Year Three of the Andover Education Support Staff contract is $10,815.

AE/MS has another large eighth grade class that will be moving on to the Merrimack Valley High School.  We do expect some of the students will attend high school elsewhere, but this budget plans for 87 students at $14,000 each to attend high school in Penacook.

The Transportation section of the budget will see an increase in both regular and special transportation costs.  In 2022-2023, the district will be in year three of the five-year contract for student transportation with First Student. This contract increases annually.  The increase in special education transportation costs is based on the need as we know it now.

As we move (hopefully!) toward the end of this pandemic, the district is seeing increased need to provide critical instruction in regard to health education. Good nutritional, physical, emotional, and mental health are crucial to our student body. This budget proposes bringing the Physical Education teacher from 80% (four days a week) to 100%.  This extra day will allow this teacher to work at each grade level to talk about and to reach new, exciting, and motivating healthy goals.

Understanding and appreciating our responsibility to the taxpayers, I’d like to point out these increases combined are greater than the actual increase to the proposed budget.  Through thoughtful conversations, this budget takes advantage of incoming grant funds, the interest payment for debt service lowering annually, and savings that we expect to see from snow removal now being handled by our AE/MS facilities crew.  

We continue to see less and less school funding aid from the State, but we remain committed to bringing forward a lean, reasonable, and fair budget to the taxpayers of Andover.

The Andover School Board is proposing a separate warrant article for $40,000 to be drawn from the 2021-2022 unassigned fund balance to be transferred to the Building Maintenance Expendable Trust.  Andover voters have approved two previous transfers of $30,000 each to be set aside in the trust for eventual replacement of the AE/MS boiler.  These additional funds in the trust will position the district to be proactive instead of reactive should the need for replacement of the boiler be imminent.