NASHUA — Mayor Donnalee Lozeau offered some compromises and suggestions to the Board of Education Wednesday night that brought the city and the school district closer to agreeing on next year’s school budget.
The board has approved a $100,798,000 budget proposal, a 3.4 percent increase over last year. Lozeau had asked the board at the beginning of the budget process to keep its budget increase to 2.1 percent.
“I’m here to talk about my concern about the 2 percent increase I requested, and where you ended up which is almost $1.6 million higher,” Lozeau told board members.
She asked the board to get closer to a 3 percent increase which would require a $560,000 cut from the proposed budget.
Lozeau said she had been watching the board struggle with a slate of difficult cuts and added that the school, police and fire department budgets are always the city’s biggest challenges.
“I would like to think that some of you are relieved that I am here asking for $560,000, not $1.6 million,” she said.
She suggested the board cut $200,000 from its deferred maintenance account. Members agreed that some of the projects on the district’s maintenance list could be bundled together and bonded, and they voted to approve that cut.
Lozeau also noted that the school district has $200,000 in revenue from other school districts that pay to send their students to Nashua’s Career and Tech Education programs. That money has been used to buy equipment for CTE programs, but Lozeau asked the board if they could forgo that payment and have it remain with the city where it would be used to keep a significant tax increase at bay.
“I will not bring in a budget with a tax increase of 3 percent,” Lozeau told the board. “It has to be less.”
For 2014, the school district is expected to bring in more than $40 million in revenue from different sources such as grants, state and federal aid and fees for transportation, parking and out-of-district tuition. Most of the money is spent covering the services provided but this year, there is a more than an $800,000 revenue surplus that will go to the city.
Board members were reluctant to agree to add the CTE tuition money to that city-bound surplus.
BOE member Sandra Ziehm said she feared it would set a precedent, and the school district would lose that income to support those programs.
Board members asked to see an earlier legal opinion about how those funds should be handled. They also decided to look closer at the possibility of cutting an additional $360,000 from their proposed operating budget.
The Board of Aldermen will review the school budget in June. Lozeau told the board she is not going to support the Police Department’s request for four new officers. Instead, she said she is asking the police to look at things differently, and she asked that the school district also try to find alternative solutions.
“I know what I am asking you is not easy,” said Lozeau. “But I am asking everyone to get closer to a 2 percent (increase) so, I am asking you to get closer to 3 percent.”