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January 30. 2013 10:19PM

Nashua's proposed school budget up about 2 percent

NASHUA - The city can expect a 2014 school budget of around $97 million - a nearly 2 percent increase over the current budget - according to numbers presented by Superintendent Mark Conrad.

"The dilemma we have," Conrad said at Wednesday night's school board meeting, "is that we've been cutting over time to the point where there are no longer areas that we can make further reductions, at least in our view, without really cutting into the bone."

The administration presented budget notebooks to the school board at Wednesday night's meeting.

Though the official dollar amount of the budget will be released at a budget meeting Saturday, Conrad said the budget will be a shade shy of 2 percent higher than the current budget, which stands at $95,564,737. That would represent an increase of nearly $2 million.

The 2014 budget is marked by the addition of five teaching positions and an increase in technology spending for software, computers and other equipment. Costs passed down by the federal and state governments are expected to place additional fiscal pressure.

Conrad said the proposed baseline budget reduces secondary-level teachers, reapportioning those positions into other areas.

But due to high class sizes at the elementary level and the expectation of an influx in students at Bicentennial Elementary - where new housing developments are expected to open in the coming school year - five elementary level positions are added.

Conrad said he left the district in 2006 and returned two years later. Upon returning he found "fewer paraprofessionals tied to our libraries, there were fewer custodians in our schools, we had reductions in our tech by $160,000, our school allocations had been frozen. . We really had been eroding ourselves for a while."

Conrad said though some programs have been eliminated over the years, the cuts have mainly resulted in staff reductions and larger class sizes. He added that the district is down 69 teachers since 2010.

"Some reductions in enrollments account for this but nothing approaching the reduction of 69 positions," he said.

The technology budget is increased by $170,000 to nearly $1.2 million. That budget accounts for added wages, computers and other equipment and $466,000 in software.

Conrad said increasing the amount of technology in classrooms signifies the move into the 21st century.

"On the end this is a modest reflection of our needs, and it really didn't reflect all of our needs, just our most pressing ones."

"We're crashing and burning before we get new computers," Conrad said.

Fifty-four percent of the district's computers are between 6 and 10 years old, while just 15 percent are less than a year old.

The administration wants to increase the number of computers in the district from 2,846 to 3,315 in next year's budget.

The added computers are projected to maintain a steady level for the next three school years.

A $70,000 net increase for curriculum is also included in the budget.

Textbooks for social studies in the middle schools, as well as Algebra II books at the high school are scheduled to be replaced.

The budget committee has six more meetings scheduled, leading up to a vote on March 6. A public hearing will take place Feb. 21 at 7 p.m.

Following the school board's approval, the budget goes to the mayor and then to the board of aldermen for final approval.

srios@newstote.com


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