Residents get a first look at 2013-14 RHAM budget

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
RHAM - posted Tue., Feb. 26, 2013

Hebron, Andover and Marlborough residents got a first look at the 2013-14 RHAM proposed budget at the RHAM Board of Education meeting on Feb. 25. Several residents appeared to speak during the public comment portion of the meeting, most in support of more funding for the music program at the middle school level. The middle school budget currently supports 1.6 faculty positions, and many parents feel that this is not enough.

Mimi Wildeman spoke of the benefits of a strong background in music education, including confidence-building and enhancement of math skills. She encouraged the board to reinstate the .6 middle school position to full-time, warning of rumors that the .6 teacher is seeking full-time employment elsewhere. Wildeman referred to the music program as curricular, as opposed to the extra-curricular sports programs, “which cost quite a bit more,” she said. She put the cost of expanding the .6 position at between $12,000 and $18,000. For the first time in years, said Wildeman, there are no freshman members of the wind ensemble at the high school, “Because they’re just not well enough prepared.”

Jennifer Arel spoke of the challenges of funneling students from three different towns into one program at RHAM middle school, and questioned the logic of weakening the program at such a crucial juncture. She said that middle school students, who previously had the opportunity to practice five days a week, were currently only able to work on their music for three. With four children involved in music, and one still at the elementary level, “I’m hoping for a change by the time he gets up to the middle school,” said Arel.

RHAM student Andrew Angelo felt that having a full-time program at the middle school level was very important, so that students aren’t forced to play catch-up when they get to the high school. “How successful would any sports team be if they only practiced three times a week?” he asked.

Superintendent Bob Siminski’s preliminary budget for 2013-14 calls for a 5.568 percent increase in spending, of which the majority ($1,282,208) would be footed by the town of Hebron due to an increase in the percentage of the enrollment coming from the town. Major drivers behind the increase, said Siminski, are: health insurance, salaries, magnet school tuition and transportation.

The district’s health insurance increase is estimated at 24.95 percent. According to negotiated contracts, certified staff are scheduled to receive a one percent plus step increase for 2013-14. Administrators have negotiated a 1.88 percent increase. Non-certified staff are scheduled to receive a two percent plus step increase.

Between magnet schools, vocational agriculture programs and Windham Technical High School, an estimated 155 students are expected to school out of district for 2013-14, an increase of 33 over 2012-13 and an increase of 54 over 2011-12. Board member Danny Holtsclaw pointed out that the district has no control over increases in magnet school tuitions, yet is obligated to pay them.

Board member Kevin Williams acknowledged this fact, but pointed out that the district does have control over funding decisions made in-district. Decisions such as adequately funding the music program in-district might help to prevent students going out-of-district in pursuit of stronger learning opportunities, he said.

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