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Manchester school board sends two budgets to aldermen

MANCHESTER - The Board of School Committee voted Monday to send two budgets to the aldermen, one totaling $159 million and the other a tax cap budget of $155.7 million.

The board also voted to approve a $2.8 million bond for new technology and teacher training.

The bond money enabled the board to subtract roughly $800,000 from the $160 million budget originally proposed by Superintendent Thomas Brennan as the minimum amount required to meet state standards.

The budget votes mirror the action taken by the board last year, when it sent two budgets to the aldermen in order to comply with the tax cap.

The board voted 10-5 in support of the larger budget. The vote for the tax cap budget was 9-6.

School board member Sarah Ambrogi was among the yes votes, but she described it as a "feel good" motion.

"If we do present a higher number," she said, "I think it would be appropriate to talk about more than minimum standards with the aldermen. We've never had discussions about results."

Board member Christopher Stewart said he could not vote for a larger budget without stronger guarantees that student achievement would improve.

"At what point do we go back to the parents and say we'll see a better return on investment? When will we see a decline in the dropout rate ... or a closing of the gap of the NECAP scores?"

Brennan said he couldn't guarantee improvements in test scores with the larger budget.

"What I can say is if we continue to have large classes, our ability to meet those minimum standards diminishes," he said.

Board member Art Beaudry, who voted for the larger budget, criticized the vote to send two spending plans to the aldermen.

"I think it's embarrassing we're sending two budgets," he said.

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