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Pelham school budget rises 2.1 percent

The committee made a motion to approve $1,868,547 for the elementary school budget in fiscal year 2014, with the total requested amount for the Town Meeting warrant at $1,378,494, a 2.1 percent increase from last year. The remaining $493,053 would come from revolving funds.

Chairwoman Debbie Gould said that while she is concerned about the possibility of the budget continuing to rise each year, she understands that some of the added expenses, such as increases in insurance and payroll costs, are necessary and inevitable.

“If you look at the school-based expenses, they’ve gone down,” Gould said. “I feel like it’s been very responsible, very conservative, and they in fact are decreasing.”

The health insurance expenses saw an increase of 24.7 percent, and the payroll account budget saw an increase of 5.7 percent.

Amherst Regional Schools Superintendent Maria Geryk said that while she does not expect a decrease in costs related to curriculum, she does not project any increases in terms of administration in the near future.

“I think it’s the real budget now,” Geryk said.

The committee also voted to ask for $9,836 from the Medicaid town warrant, a 21.7 percent decrease from last year.

The committee also approved creating a revolving fund for the establishment of a preschool in the amount of no more than $91,000 for salaries, materials and benefits. The committee also agreed to request $15,000 for security systems and upgrades for the elementary school, and $10,000 to fund additional curriculum expenses.

In other discussion, the committee responded to the results of the Time on Learning Survey that was presented to Pelham last month, surveying parents and staff on solutions to correct a 50-hour deficit of instructional time in the school year. District elementary schools were found to be short of the state-required 900 hours earlier this year.

The committee voted to forgo the earlier release time on Wednesdays and move to a consistent five-days-per-week schedule.

This Saturday, the school district will vote at an open meeting at Amherst Regional High School on whether to regionalize district elementary schools.

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