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Nashua school budget talks lead to contentious meeting

Union Leader Correspondent

March 30. 2018 9:53PM

NASHUA — In a heated and contentious meeting this week, school officials gave their approval to a proposed $110.3 million budget that will now be considered by the Board of Aldermen.

While some members of the school board’s budget committee felt their voices were not being heard because they do not agree with the majority of the board, others argued that the chairman was not allowing certain opinions to be expressed.

When a motion was made to support the superintendent’s proposed $110 million budget, which represents a 3.41 percent increase over the existing spending plan, Howard Coffman, committee chairman, ruled the motion out of order because there was not sufficient discussion on the matter.

Coffman said he was following Robert’s Rules of Order, which is designed to protect the voice of the minority. Others disagreed, saying that once a motion is made and seconded, a vote must be taken.

“You cannot make your own rules up,” argued Raymond Guarino, board member.

“Actually, the chair of the meeting can, and by publicly expressing them and asking for agreement as I have done, I have actually done that,” replied Coffman, stressing he is trying to run a civil meeting.

Elizabeth Van Twuyver, board member, said the budget is no longer the administration’s budget, but rather the board’s budget that needs to be debated thoroughly.

“I am telling you, there has been some opportunity here to block out the minority’s vote, the minority’s voice,” said Van Twuyver.

“Just because we have more votes than you, that is the democratic process,” replied Guarino. “Elections have consequences. If you don’t like it, you don’t get to be the tail that wags the dog.”

“Actually, we do, and that is what you are seeing now,” said Coffman.

Gloria Timmons said she attempted to object to Coffman’s guidelines at the start of the meeting but was interrupted.

“Shut us down — that is what you did,” Timmons told Coffman.

Coffman contended that he was doing the exact opposite while attempting to make sure everyone could speak.

“You did not give us a chance to object or speak,” insisted Guarino.

The board ultimately voted 8-1 to hand over the proposed $110 million budget to the Board of Aldermen’s budget review committee for consideration.

The school district’s proposed fiscal year 2019 spending plan is a 3.4 percent increase over the current budget. Mayor Jim Donchess has submitted his own proposed budget to city officials, which includes a 2.5 percent increase for the school department.

Just prior to the school board’s final vote, Doris Hohensee, board member, expressed her frustration with the budget process; she was the only person to vote against the budget.

“You have the majority, you can shut us down. We might as well go home and resign,” said Hohensee.

The aldermanic budget review committee is expected to study the proposed school budget on May 10.

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