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February 28. 2013 9:10PM

Nashua, other school districts brace for sequestration cuts

NASHUA - With the strong possibility that Congress is unable to agree to a deal in time to avert sequestration cuts, the Nashua School District, like every district in the state, is facing the possibility of losing a large percentage of its federal funding.

Superintendent Mark Conrad said if the deadline passes without a deal, between 6 to 8 percent of all federal funding would be lost.

"We would be forced to reduce services for educationally at-risk students and see a decrease in professional development," Conrad said.

While some of the cuts wont hurt the district's bottom line, like a potential $64,000 cut for professional development, cuts to district special education funding, which could total as much as $230,000, will have to be offset from other areas of the district's budget.

Conrad said much of the sequestration cuts for education "tend to be correlated with schools that have the greatest proportion of students in poverty."

He added that special education services are legally mandated regardless of funding status or source.

"We would have to find that money, since we can't cut special education services," he said.

If the cuts occur, Conrad said the district wouldn't feel it until July 1.

"It wouldn't impact us in the middle of the school year," he said.

While not ideal, if the cuts do go through the district at least would have time to figure how to adjust to them, he said.

However, Conrad added that the Nashua School District, like districts throughout the state, faces mounting public pressure to keep education costs level, making increased taxes to offset the loss almost impossible.

"Compounding matters, I proposed a budget with a 2 percent increase, but the mayor has proposed 1 percent, so we might already have to make reductions from the budget I proposed if the mayor's budget is put in place. We're in a difficult position to say we will try to make up for any reductions through the operating budget," he said.

Conrad added that the final number for the school district's budget will be determined by the mayor and aldermen, and that if they decide to give the district less money than asked for, the Board of Education will have to go back into the budget and find places they can try to cut without hurting student services.

In Merrimack, Superintendent Marge Chaifery said that while the hit for her school district might not be as much as it would be for Nashua, "it would still hurt."

Currently receiving federal funding for special education, remedial math and English classes, and English as a second language classes, Chaifrey said, "we have had no formal notice about anything, the Department of Education hasn't sent out anything, all I can do is watch the news just wondering what it means."

Chaifrey added that any cuts would probably not take effect until the next fiscal year, and that because Merrimack doesn't have the poverty issues many of the larger cities in the state do, it doesn't receive much in the way of federal funding.

"It would be hurtful, but not as much as it would with the cities. I've got my eyes on it," Chaifrey said.


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