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Manchester school board implements spending freeze

By PAUL FEELY
New Hampshire Union Leader

November 27. 2017 10:49PM




MANCHESTER — City school board members voted Monday night to implement a spending freeze in the district on non-essential materials.

The motion approved by board members authorizes the spending freeze, while giving Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bolgen Vargas “the latitude to maintain direct student services.”

The vote authorizing the freeze followed a report by district administrators showing the district currently forecasting Manchester schools finishing the year $40,000 in the black — out of an annual budget exceeding $160 million — primarily due to several positions not being filled immediately at the beginning of the year, along with hiring at lower salary than budgeted for other positions.

“We are living under a very difficult monetary situation,” said Vargas. “This is driven by necessity. We are not in a position that we can proceed without taking any steps to avoid a more painful situation in the future, and that is if we finish in the red. Particularly because we don’t have the reserve that I think we need to have.”

“What are the primary reasons that are causing us to max out the budget each year?” asked Ross Terrio of Ward 7.

“That was from a contract that was approved a couple of years ago,” said Mayor Ted Gatsas.

School District Business Administrator Karen DeFrancis attributed much of the shortfall to special education costs within the district.

“If the superintendent believes, and the principal or whoever is requesting the services can justify it, he is going to go along with it,” said Art Beaudry of Ward 9. “He did a great job with the spending freeze last year, and I know he’ll do a great job this year.”

Monday night’s vote was nearly unanimous, with only Gatsas opposed. He said he would favor cuts over a spending freeze.

“I’m opposed because I believe line items should be cut and not frozen,” said Gatsas. “You have to think of cuts here because you’re not going to make it to the end of the year.” Monday’s vote followed a vote by the school board’s Subcommittee on Finance recommending the spending freeze. Voting in favor of the freeze at the committee level were Rich Girard, Beaudry, Dan Bergeron and Katie Desrochers. Committee member Nancy Tessier was absent from the meeting.

pfeely@unionleader.com


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