Superintendent 2016-17 Proposed Budget Update

Proposed 2016-17 Budget Update – January 8, 2016

The Oyster River Cooperative School District School Board has spent many months deliberating over the school budget. This year has been particularly difficult due to the projected 16.8% increase in health insurance costs. This health insurance increase approaches $600,000. Another way to look at the health increase is that it represents to the SAU 5 budget a 1.5% increase all by itself. This increase would have been 5% higher except that the District pools its insurance through HealthTrust.

As large as this increase was, it would have been even greater had the School Board not been negotiating over the past three years with all employee groups, to lower the cost of health insurance by sharing the cost more equitably with employees. All unions have agreed to higher co-pays for pharmacy needs, along with employees assuming a greater share of the cost of insurance, and teachers agreeing to higher co-pays for office visits. In addition, HealthTrust eliminated the most expensive health plan option which had an immediate effect. All of these efforts were helpful in keeping health care costs stable.

Compared to the projected increase in 2016-17, the increases over the past five years for health insurance costs have been far more reasonable.

  • 2011-12 health insurance costs increased by 5.9%
  • 2012-13 health insurance costs increased by 4.4%
  • 2013-14 health insurance costs increased by 1.6%
  • 2014-15 health insurance costs increased by 2.8%
  • 2015-16 health insurance costs decreased by -0.1%

Historically, health insurance increases for the ORCSD had a high of 25.5% in 2001-02 to a low of 1.7% in 2009-10. 

In spite of our efforts to stabilize health insurance costs, ultimately the cost of insurance is based on utilization. Unfortunately for our employees, this has been a high utilization year as Oyster River employees used over $5 million worth of health services, which resulted in the 16.8% increase.

Another factor that contributes to the growth of the 2016-17 budget is negotiated increases with all unions resulting in costs of approximately $600,000. When combined with the health insurance increase it totals $1.2 million.

Between the extraordinary increase in the cost of health insurance and the negotiated salary increases, the stage was set for a difficult budget year. The ORCSD School Board spent numerous hours deliberating on the 2016-17 budget for they knew they needed to be extremely frugal and still meet the needs of the students. As a result, no new staff requests were approved by the Board. Operational budgets scheduled to increase per the Strategic Plan were ultimately cut. Technology which was projected to increase by $100,000 was cut by $15,000, facilities which was projected to increase by $200,000 was cut by $25,000 and transportation which was projected to purchase three new buses will only be able to purchase two, cutting that budget by $85,000.

The result is a proposed 2016-17 budget increase by the ORCSD School Board of just 2.9%.

The good news.

Though a tough budget development year, the proposed 2016-17 budget maintains the focus on the adopted strategic plan.

Full Day Kindergarten

ORCSD is proud to announce that after eight years of research, deliberation and presentations, full- day Kindergarten will start this fall. It has been the dream of the staff and many parents over the years to implement full-day kindergarten. To put it in perspective, this conversation started when the current 7th grade students were entering Kindergarten! The major obstacle that prevented implementation in the past was the lack of available classroom space. Although Mast Way has had the space for several years the Moharimet School has not. Next year, for the first time, both schools will have the space for three classrooms each. Due to the changes in the projected budget, no new funds were added to support this program. Instead, funding will come from redirecting current resources. The transportation department is one source of redirecting funds with the elimination of the 14 midday kindergarten bus runs; this will result in a savings of at least $140,000. Additionally, lower elementary enrollment allows the District to reassign existing teachers to the full-day kindergarten program, so that no new hiring will need to take place to implement full-day kindergarten.

Student Performance

Oyster River continues to be one of New Hampshire’s higher performing school districts. The District did very well on the new state-wide assessment, Smarter Balanced. ORCSD exceeded the State scores in every school and in every grade tested from grades 3 - 11. ORHS college placement has exceed 80% for the past six years. Graduation rates have been at 100% for the past five years. SAT scores continue to exceed State and national averages. A new direction for the District is high school students earning college credit. The latest data indicates that in the fall of 2015 high school students earned 74 college course credits. We project this trend will increase over time giving Oyster River students an amazing benefit moving forward to college and reducing their future tuition costs.


Beyond academics, the Food Service, Facilities, Transportation and Information Technology Departments continue to improve with a focus on lowering our carbon footprint by purchasing energy efficient equipment and being pro-active to student and District needs. Due to a focus on quality and a commitment to locally grown food, participation in the Food Service program is up resulting in a cost savings of $20,000 to the local taxpayers. The Facilities Department continues to replace outdated equipment with energy efficient devices, and has committed to green cleaning products and fertilizers. Transportation continues to lower maintenance costs and contribute to a cleaner environment by upgrading District buses annually. The Technology Department reduced the number of printers and copiers from over 100 to approximately 36 highly efficient machines effectively lowering the District electrical usage.

A new endeavor worth noting is the ORCSD partnership with the Town of Durham’s new solar array. Up to 10% of the District’s power needs will be generated in partnership with the town.

A Successful School District

As we all know, ORCSD is more than data documenting our “success.” It is an organization made up of dedicated people committed to the academic and social success of our students, as well as operational efficiency. We achieve this by creating school climates that recognize the individual needs of every child, by insuring that the food is nutritious and delicious, the facilities are clean, the buses are safe and trustworthy and operated by drivers committed to safety and by insuring the technology meets the needs of our staff and students.

Oyster River Cooperative School District can attribute its success to the remarkable students, staff, parental involvement and the continued support of the communities of Durham, Lee and Madbury.