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February 20. 2014 9:24PM

Nashua school officials focus on transportation budget

NASHUA — School administrators are negotiating a new transportation contract they hope will rein in costs and reduce the bottom line for next year’s budget.

Superintendent Mark Conrad’s recommended 2015 budget calls for $6.2 million for transportation, a roughly $1 million increase over last year. But with a new contract now being hammered out, school officials expect to see a reduction in those anticipated costs and some savings in the overall $102 million budget proposal for next year.

“We should know what the contract will be in a day or so,” Chief Operating Officer Daniel Donovan told the Board of Education during a budget workshop this week.

Although Donovan could not offer any more details, he did give the board one encouraging piece of information.

“The budget includes a 20 percent increase and (the new contract) will be less than that,” he said.

Board members have been reviewing each section of next year’s budget recommendation, which proposes a $5 million, or 5.2 percent, increase over last year’s $97.4 million budget. Mayor Donnalee Lozeau has asked the board to limit the increase in spending to 2.1 percent.

BOE Chairman George Farrington, who has been looking at cost projections for the next three years, has said school officials will have to stick with priorities as they develop budgets.

“Personally, I think the district is going to have to step back and ask, ‘Do we really need this?’” he said.

Most of the 2015 budget increase is for salaries and labor costs that will jump from $78.4 million to just over $81.8 million. In addition to roughly $1.7 million to cover the cost of raises for teachers, administrators are also hoping to add 13 new people to the payroll.Among those new positions are four new elementary school teachers who will ease the problem of crowded classrooms.

The district also plans to launch a new early childhood intensive-needs program with one teacher and three paraprofessionals. The program would help preschoolers with special needs prepare for kindergarten and hopefully avoid more costly out-of-district placements.

The new budget also calls for adding a teacher of the deaf for the district’s middle school students and a sign language interpreter.

Other new hires in the proposed budget include a math coach to support elementary school teachers and a unified arts teacher at the elementary school level. The addition of a unified arts teacher was part of the new contract with the Nashua Teachers Union. Beginning next year, kindergarten teachers will be required to increase their classroom planning from 50 to 100 minutes each week. Expanding the teaching staff for unified arts, or music, art and physical education, will give classroom teachers the time needed to meet that requirement.

The Board of Education will hold a public hearing on the 2015 budget proposal on March 5 from 7 to 10 p.m. in the auditorium at Nashua High School North.


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