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City of Nashua directs millions in surplus funds

NASHUA – As children whose native languages are Spanish, Portuguese, Vietnamese, Tamil, Arabic or something else other than English continue arriving in Nashua, the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating the school system about reports these students are not receiving adequate education.

In fact, an evaluation of New Hampshire Department of Education statistics compared to information provided by the Nashua School District shows that the typical New Hampshire public school teacher is responsible for educating 12.6 students at a time. However, English language learner (ELL) teachers in Nashua have been assigned an average of 49 pupils per class.

Hoping to mitigate this discrepancy, members of the Nashua Budget Review Committee recently amended Resolution 19-170 to use $69,319 to hire an additional ELL teacher. In full, the resolution allocates about $3.1 million in fiscal year 2019 surplus funds.

Prior to an amendment made to the resolution during the Sept. 5 committee meeting, officials had planned to use the $69,319 for improvements at the Nashua Airport. The amended resolution passed during the Tuesday Board of Aldermen meeting … and it was only one of several.

For example, two other resolutions, 19-164 and 19-165, add a combined $3 million to the health insurance fund. Since the city is self-insured, it works off estimates toward the coming year’s expenses. Since the city deals with an estimated group of expenditures based on future claims that are estimated, officials have a savings account that backs that up. Moreover, the reserve account has declined slightly over the last few years a bit due to estimates that have been low while health care costs continue to increase quickly.

That enables the city to purchase various equipment and trucks, and all other related expenditures except for very large purchases, such as fire trucks.

Resolution 19-163 devotes nearly $1.5 million to the Capital Equipment Reserve Fund (CERF) account.

“In working with the mayor, we determined that this is the best place to get the $50,000 for the comprehensive fireman’s report, which the last time it was done was 33 years ago,” Alderman Richard Dowd said.

Furthermore, Resolution 19-166 appropriates $110,000 from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation into Parks & Recreation grant activity “Jeff Morin Fund, playground improvements at Roby Park.”

Both Resolutions 19-167 and 19-168 passed contingent upon Capital Improvement Committee Recommendations. The first appropriates $1 million toward the Middle School Project to help pay for initial expenses.

“This is again expenditure that we know in the end we have to make, so we’re putting a deposit towards that project,” Mayor Jim Donchess said.

Moreover, 19-168 provides $300,000 for the Library Plaza Project.

The next, 19-169, deals with $700,000 for Public Works for a couple purposes. One of which is the problems at Lincoln Park, which is built on a landfill with some instability. The playground is tilting and the road is a problem going in as well. So, some funds may be used to stabilize and equalize the level on the playground so it can continue to be used. The remainder of the funds could be then devoted to sidewalks, something that has been brought up in the midst of the miles of paving being done during the last several months.

Also, Resolution 19-174 came before the board for the first time, which aims to apply $4.5 million of the surplus to replace revenue that city officials would otherwise increase taxes to raise. Officials said they do this every year in an effort to minimize the property tax burden on landowners. That resolution was assigned to the Budget Review Committee.

Lastly, Resolution 19-170 also passed with appropriations as follows: $2,400 for office supplies; $8,900 toward the cost of improvements to the Aldermanic Chamber; $255,000 for consulting services; $65,000 for flashing signals at downtown crosswalks; $65,000 for construction of a fuel island; $13,000 for parking equipment; $3,210 for public health stipends; $31,500 toward the cost of an integrated library system; $14,500 for a bicycle pedestrian plan; $5,000 for professional services of the Energy and Environment Committee; $10,000 for conferences and seminars; $140,000 for the School Capital Reserve Fund; $69,319 for the English language learner teacher; $8,000 for interns; $310,000 for the City Building Fund; $4,484 for the Arlington Street Community Center; $75,000 for pension costs for unsettled contracts; $1.2 million for the CERF, which saves money to be used to purchase garbage trucks, for example; $24,692 to repair an elevator in the police building; $100,000 for police overtime; $300,000 toward the cost of the Division of Public Works building; $15,000 for an East Hollis Street/Bridge Street traffic study; $100,000 for the Hydropower Reserve Fund; $40,000 for the Tree Streets “Your Streets, Your Choice” project; $150,000 for the new boat ramp; $40,000 to establish an Arts District; $22,000 to replace equipment in the Planning Department; $50,000 for holiday lighting; $35,000 for summer concerts and events; and $10,000 for salaries in Urban Programs.

Adam Urquhart may be contacted at 594-1206, or at aurquhart@nashuatelegraph.com.