By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — The Laconia School District will forego another $98,443 in state aid during the current school year, in addition to the reduction of $455,335 in state aid, which contributed to significant cuts last spring to bring the school district budget into compliance with the tax cap.
"We will try to find the extra revenue to make up the shortfall within our budget by saving on expenses during the the course of the year," said School Superintendent Brendan Minnihan. "The real challenge will be in the next school year." He explained that preparing the 2017-18 budget will start from a point more than $500,000 below what the School Board considers appropriate with the prospect of further reductions in state aid, which may not be able to be offset within the limits of the tax cap.
The most recent reduction in state aid reflects the revision of the school enrollment the New Hampshire Department of Education projected last November, which served as the basis for calculating state aid and preparing the school district budget for 2016-2017. Last month, the department adjusted the enrollment to more accurately measure the number of students enrolled at the beginning of the school year.
The formula for distributing state aid provides $3,561.27 in aid for each student, which multiplied by the number of students represents the base aid. At the same time, the state provides an additional $1,780.63 for each student eligible for free or reduced lunch and also provides additional aid for students with special needs, learning English as a second language and third-graders deficient in reading.
Last November, the projected enrollment in the Laconia School District for 2016-2017 was 1,819 students, 95 fewer than the year before. Last month this projection was revised upward to 1,849 students. However, the projected number of students eligible for free or reduced lunch was revised downward from 1,098 to 995. As a result, the base aid to the district increased from $6.6 million to $6.5 million, or by $100,839. But, with the decline in the number of students eligible for free or reduced lunch, the amount of additional aid fell from $2 million to $1.8 million, or by $183,689. The net effect of these adjustments was to reduce the total amount of state aid by $82,850.
Other categories of state aid also underwent minor adjustments. And the so-called "stabilization grant," an amount to hold municipalities harmless from decreases in the aid received in fiscal year 2011, was reduced 4 percent as the first step toward eliminating it altogether. The end result was to reduce the total amount of state to the school district by $98,443, from the $6,052,278 projected last November to $5,953,835.
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