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Friday, February 15, 2013

Mayor’s request could mean nearly $1 million in cuts for school budget

NASHUA – The Board of Education will face tough choices in the coming weeks, as it works to determine how to respond to a request from the mayor to slash its proposed budget increases in half.

Mayor Donnalee Lozeau sent the school district and all other city departments a memo last week, urging them to deliver a budget with no more than a 1 percent increase. The $97.6 million school budget proposed by the superintendent this month represents a 2 percent increase, nearly $2 million more than the current year’s budget. ...

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NASHUA – The Board of Education will face tough choices in the coming weeks, as it works to determine how to respond to a request from the mayor to slash its proposed budget increases in half.

Mayor Donnalee Lozeau sent the school district and all other city departments a memo last week, urging them to deliver a budget with no more than a 1 percent increase. The $97.6 million school budget proposed by the superintendent this month represents a 2 percent increase, nearly $2 million more than the current year’s budget.

“It is most important that we develop a budget that keeps the tax rate as stable as possible, while providing the services that our residents and businesses have come to expect,” Lozeau wrote.

Superintendent Mark Conrad said if the board wants to meet the mayor’s request, finding nearly $1 million to cut won’t be easy.

“It will be difficult, and would require additional sacrifices,” he said. “The fact is, we have costs going up over 1 percent ... but we recognize that the mayor and the Board of Aldermen are in a difficult position, too. It’s a difficult picture for all of us.”

Conrad said that transportation costs and severance costs, among others, are all increasing this year by 2 to 3 percent.

On the city side, Lozeau said the primary challenge during the fiscal 2014 budget process will be rising employer rates from the New Hampshire Retirement System – an approximately $3.7 million increase for the city next year.

The board is still reviewing the budget as proposed, and will likely not begin amending the proposal until after a public hearing on Feb. 21.

If the board is interested in making cuts to meet Lozeau’s request, they may ask administrators to recommend potential areas of the budget that can be downsized.

But Conrad said he will not make recommendations to cut the budget unless he is asked.

“As soon as you say this is something that can be cut, it can have an impact on an organization,” he said. “It raises anxieties about whether people’s positions are in jeopardy.”

Budget Committee Chairman Thomas Vaughn said the potential cuts are in the back of all board members minds.

“The mayor did come and talk to us and made a strong case for why she wants less of an increase,” he said. “It puts us in a difficult position, because I think the superintendent has made a strong position that he actually needs the resources this year.”

Vaughn said the board will wait to make any budget decisions until after its public input session, and that he’s hopeful they can craft a final budget that will work for the district and the city.

The board’s final budget will be sent to the mayor, who will make her own recommendations on the proposal before passing it off to the Board of Alderman, who have the final look at the budget.

If aldermen vote to lower the bottom line of the school budget, the Board of Education will have to make cuts.

The situation is nothing new for the district.

Last year, the mayor asked the board to stick to a 1 percent increase, and voiced her support for the district’s spending plans when the proposed budget came in at $95.5 million – a 1.15 percent increase over the previous year’s budget.

The Board of Education will hold a public hearing on the proposed budget on Feb. 21 at 7 p.m. in the Nashua High School North board room.

Danielle Curtis can be reached at 594-6557 or dcurtis@nashua
telegraph.com. Also follow Curtis
on Twitter (Telegraph_DC).