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Manchester school board sends $165m budget to aldermen

New Hampshire Union Leader

March 14. 2017 1:06AM

MANCHESTER -- Capping off a marathon four-and-a-half-hour session at City Hall on Monday night, school board members voted to send a budget request of $165,007,505 to city aldermen for Fiscal Year 2018.

The budget figure is the one required by the city tax cap.

Along with the budget figure, school board members voted to send along a list of priorities the board would add back in if given a dollar figure higher than that, on up to a level-funded request of $170,080,065. That list includes health and Spanish curriculum at the middle school level, a reading program and addressing class size issues in city elementary schools.

The vote was 13-1, with At Large school board member Rich Girard the lone vote against the motion, made by Vice Chair Art Beaudry of Ward 9. Mayor Ted Gatsas abstained.

The vote came around 11:10 p.m. Monday.

Gatsas was adamant the budget sent to aldermen be a tax cap budget.

"I think it's clear what the charter says must be sent to the aldermen, and that's a tax cap budget," said Mayor Ted Gatsas. "If you want to send five others behind it you can do that, but included in there has to be a tax cap budget."

Committeewoman Leslie Want of Ward 4 suggested board members put together a menu of items the board would least like to lose due to cuts.

"For me, it would be elementary teachers," said Want.

The vote followed an earlier vote, on a motion by Beaudry of Ward 9, to reduce city chargebacks - reimbursing city departments for services provided to the school district, such as school nurses or plowing - by five percent in FY 2018. The motion passed with 9 yeas and 2 nays. In favor were Debra Langton, Mary Georges, Want, Dan Bergeron, Ross Terrio, Erika Connors, Beaudry, Kate Descrochers and Connie Van Houten. Opposed were Nancy Tessier and Girard, with Gatsas abstaining. School board members Sarah Ambrogi, Lisa Freeman, and John Avard were absent from the room when the vote was taken.

Beaudry said the five percent reduction would save $419,900, which said he believed would save eight teaching positions scheduled to be cut.

"I don't think it's wise to go after revenue," said Girard. "We don't know how the aldermen will react to that. They may decide to give us $400,000 less."

Van Houten gave notice prior to the end of the meeting that she would like the board to reconsider that vote, an idea that received support from Want.

"I do think the vote we took is penny-wise and pound-foolish," said Want.

Charter rules call for the motion to reconsider to be placed on the agenda for the school board's next meeting.

Last month. Vargas proposed a reduction in force of 47 full-time employees, including laying off 18 teachers, to close a $5 million budget gap in FY’18.

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