NASHUA — Board of Education members agreed they have made all possible cuts to next year’s budget proposal and plan to send the mayor and the Board of Aldermen a $100 million budget, a 3.2 percent increase over last year.
The board will hold a final public hearing on the budget Wednesday, April 9, at 7 p.m. in the lecture hall at Nashua High School North, before voting to officially send the budget to the city.
“We’ve eliminated everything the superintendent reluctantly reduced,” said BOE member Steven Haas during the first of two final budget committee meetings last week. “Everything else will be cutting to the core of instruction.”
The school budget is still 1 percent, or roughly $1 million, over the 2.1 percent increase Mayor Donnalee Lozeau told the board the city could afford to spend at the start of the budget review last February.
During the past couple of weeks, members considered a list of different cuts and looked at the possibility of raising revenue through increasing athletic fees. Over and over, however, each motion to cut the budget failed, often on a 5-4 vote.
Some members refused to cut anything that would directly affect teachers and classrooms, while other members voted against streamlining supervisory positions such as peer mentors for teachers.
At the start of the budget season, Superintendent Mark Conrad made the case that the school district had proposed budgets with modest increases of 1.1 percent in 2013 and 2 percent in 2014.
According to Conrad, this year’s budget, which initially called for an increase of more than 4 percent, reflects a set of changing circumstances. The district negotiated a new contract with the Nashua Teachers Union, which included $3.3 million in raises, and a new busing contract, which raised transportation costs by $500,000. Special education placement costs have also increased.
The board did cut three teachers from the high school staff as well as two guidance counselors and two secretaries, and several other positions. Rather than hire two new elementary school teachers to reduce class sizes, the board opted to approve hiring two new teachers.
They also cut spending on new technology and classroom supplies, saving another $150,000.
While the board is hopeful the city will approve the budget as is, members are also bracing for the need to return to their spreadsheets and make some difficult choices. They are also hopeful there may be some flexibility and room to negotiate when they have a final number for this year’s school budget surplus, which is typically returned to the city.