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Nashua budget deliberations continue

Union Leader Correspondent

July 10. 2014 9:02PM

NASHUA -- The needs of local special education students were discussed at length on Thursday as city officials attempted to finalize the proposed municipal budget for the new fiscal year.

During a wrap-up session on the city's $256 million recommended spending plan, the aldermanic Budget Review Committee spoke with members of the Board of Education about a last-minute change in out-of-district services for about a dozen special education students.

The students, who previously attended The Brentwood School in Merrimack, must be relocated since the alternative school closed last month.

According to George Farrington, president of the Board of Education, it could cost the district about $40,000 per student to send them to a similar school likely in Massachusetts. The cost in Merrimack was closer to $34,000, he said.

Currently, the school board is considering hiring staff to work at the closed Merrimack school for the upcoming school year, which would allow the dozen Nashua students to continue their education at the facility.

"It is important to try to keep the continuity," said board member Robert Hallowell. " … but it is only a one year solution."

The cost to lease the school building is about $130,000 for the year. The Board of Education's finance committee is recommending the lease and staff hiring, however the full Board of Education has not yet voted on the matter.

Hallowell said school officials have until July 21 to make that decision. Farrington stressed that it is still just a one-year option, as the owners of the building -- Southeastern Regional Education Service Center of Bedford -- have plans for the facility the following year. The educational consortium is trying to determine the feasibility of possibly converting The Brentwood School into a public charter school.

There is about $150,000 in a special revenue account to help with some of the costs for the Nashua School District to either operate The Brentwood School in the upcoming school year, or send its 12 students to an out-of-district program, according to Hallowell.

"We are spending the money either way," he added.

Ideally, Farrington said he would eventually like to find a local building to permanently house the alternative program for students with emotional, social and academic challenges who are not thriving in a traditional high school setting.

The aldermanic Budget Review Committee continued studying the mayor's proposed municipal budget of $256.5 million on Thursday, analyzing various line items in the fiscal year 2015 budget. At the time of this report, the final version of the committee's recommended spending plan had not yet been approved.

Under the city charter, aldermen have until Aug. 1 to accept a new budget, even though the fiscal year began last week. Mayor Donnalee Lozeau said previously that her recommended budget, an increase of 2.2 percent over the former budget, would increase the city's tax rate by less than 3 percent.

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