A new budget of $116.6 million was approved by the Nashua Board of Education this week, and the proposed spending plan will now be reviewed by aldermen.
The fiscal year 2022 budget, which begins on July 1, is an increase of nearly $2 million, or about a 1.71% increase over the existing budget.
“Overall, it is a very well-done budget,” said Board of Education President Heather Raymond, stressing it has been a uniquely challenging year for preparing finances.
Mayor Jim Donchess asked school officials to present a proposed budget to the Board of Aldermen with a maximum 1.5% increase, which Raymond described as “super tight.”
The $116,561,806 budget approved by the school board is about $238,000 more than the mayor’s request, according to Chief Operating Officer Dan Donovan. The proposed spending plan does not include an extra $41 million for benefits and pension costs that will be added to the city’s overall budget for school staff.
Administrators are suggesting the hiring of three new full-time staff members — a board-certified behavior analyst and two custodians.
School board member Paula Johnson was the only person to vote in opposition to the budget. Given all of the financial challenges throughout the past year, as well as a reduction of about 860 students, Johnson said she cannot support a budget that includes additional staff.
“We are getting requests from schools that are asking for interventionists,” said interim Superintendent Garth McKinney.
Those requests are specifically for reading and math assistance at the elementary schools, he said.
The school budget will now be reviewed by the Board of Aldermen next month. Aside from the three new positions included in the budget, Donovan said the rest of the spending plan is “status quo.”
It does include contractual increases, as well as additional funds that could be necessary during negotiations with four local unions, he explained.
There is a $12.9 million federal grant the Nashua School District was recently awarded, however those emergency and secondary-relief funds will not be available for standard operating items, but rather COVID-19-related needs that must be approved through the state, according to school officials.
Nashua is set to lose up to $4.5 million in state adequacy aid because of a substantial reduction in student enrollment during the current school year. In October of 2019, the district had 11,025 students enrolled compared with October 2020 when the district had 10,165 students enrolled — a decrease of 860 pupils.