EXETER — The SAU 16 Joint Board approved the 2020-21 SAU operations budget after a public hearing and board meeting on Sept. 28.

The $2,552,591 budget represents an increase of .68%, or $17,245.83, over the current year’s budget. It was approved by the Joint Board by a vote of 28-2.

About 91% of the budget is contractual and funds employee contracts such as salary, retirement, course reimbursement, travel, phone, professional association membership, vehicle mileage and insurance. The remaining 9% covers costs primarily related to training, operations and software/equipment. The largest increase within the budget is related to increased costs associated with insurance, FICA and N.H. retirement, the latter rate slated to increase by 11.88% in accordance with the NH Retirement System’s statutory rate increases.

“We were very pleased to develop and present a budget that was nearly flat over the current year and was able to absorb the revised rate requirement,” said Mollie O’Keefe, executive director of finance and operations for SAU 16. “I am grateful for the individuals across the seven school districts that we serve who played a key role in crafting this budget.”

The budget process is overseen by an advisory committee that includes SAU administration and one member from each of the seven school boards in SAU 16. The draft budget was first presented to the Joint Board on September 14 at their regularly scheduled fall meeting. The budget was then presented a second time at the scheduled public hearing on Sept. 28. Residents of SAU 16 had an opportunity to submit questions in advance and those were addressed and answered during the hearing. A formal vote took place in public session at a special meeting of the Joint Board immediately following the hearing.

The SAU budget is divided out based on equalized valuation and enrollment (50% each) to the SAU 16 school districts and included in the 2021-22 local budgets. The districts include Brentwood, East Kingston, Exeter, Kensington, Newfields, Stratham and the Exeter Region Cooperative. As is the process for all board meetings, a video of the Sept. 28 meeting that includes the SAU 16 budget presentation is available online.