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March 27. 2013 9:24PM

Nashua mayor: Education budget will be cut if necessary

NASHUA - The day after the Board of Education approved a $97 million recommended school budget, Mayor Donnalee Lozeau said she is prepared to make cuts if she feels the budget needs to be tightened up.

Lozeau said she will, however, work with the Board of Education to make sure any cuts affect students as little as possible.

"It's not like we would cut lunch for the students," Lozeau said.

Despite cutting more than $250,000 from the superintendent's recommended budget, the School Board's approved spending plan is still 1.71 percent higher than the current budget. Lozeau requested that all city departments limit their annual increases to 1 percent.

The $97,349,345.02 budget passed the board, 7-2, with members Dennis Ryder and David Murotake voting against it.

"If I can, I will work with their number," Lozeau said. "If I need to change it, I will go back to them."

Board of Education President Robert Hallowell and board member Sandra Ziehm said this year's budget process has been the most contentious one in recent memory, but Lozeau said she wasn't aware of any problems.

"I am not aware of any disagreement; none of them have told me that," Lozeau said. "I would be happy to have a conversation with them. It is not my intention to be contentious. The intention is for us to work together as a single city. That is when we serve the city best."

Lozeau said she appeared before the Board of Education in February and laid out her expectations for the district's budget while also detailing issues facing the city.

"This is a positive message. We always work together, and I expect this year to be the same," Lozeau said.

On Tuesday night, Alderman Diane Sheehan told the Board of Education that the mayor's request does not have to be honored, but Lozeau said it is her responsibility to address all city departments.

"I had no idea Sheehan went before the Board of Education. She said nothing to me about my guidelines. The simple math is with increases in retirement costs going into effect this year, a large part of which is attributable to the schools, there is not a lot to spread around," Lozeau said.

Now that the budget has been given to the mayor, Lozeau said she expects to present her budget, including her recommendation for the school budget, to the Board of Aldermen at its first meeting in May.


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