WEST NEWBURY — Eleven teaching positions — a majority at the elementary level — could be cut from the Pentucket Regional School District next year if tax hikes to support the budget are not funded in Groveland and Merrimac this spring.
The district's proposed $34.5 million spending plan represents a 2.9 percent increase — or $1.58 million more — in operating expenses. However, even if approved by voters at town meetings on April 30 and with override votes at the polls in Groveland and Merrimac on May 7, next year's budget already calls for the loss of 4.5 teachers. A failed tax override could mean six additional teaching cuts.
West Newbury will not face an override request for the schools and instead will fund its school assessment within the line-item budget. The school budget must pass in two of the three district towns.
In Merrimac, a $195,000 override means about $93 more in annual property taxes on the average house assessed at $313,000. A $192,662 override in Groveland is $81 more on the average $352,180 home.
But, when reached on Wednesday, Groveland's Finance Director Greg Labrecque noted that the assessment for Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School has increased $103,000 in that town. Pentucket's override coupled with the new debt exclusion for the Bagnall Elementary School addition and the 2 1/2 annual increases allowable under state law means a tax bill of $342.43, he said.
A 1.9 percent hike, or $625,000 of the projected budget increase, represents debt for elementary school renovation projects ongoing throughout the district for which funding has already been approved by voters.
A large factor in the increase is the loss of $400,000 in Education Jobs funds, a federal stimulus grant program that ended this year.
At a meeting on Tuesday, the Pentucket School Committee agreed that in the event of a shortfall, the following cuts would be made to cover the $500,000 deficit:
Six elementary classroom teachers: $300,000