MANCHESTER — The nine newly elected members of the new Manchester School District Charter Commission are ready to start deliberations on the merits of the schools setting their own budget number — assuming the courts allow them to do so.
Thirty-seven candidates filed papers seeking one of the openings on the Charter Commission, approved by state legislators under HB 544, “An Act Relative to the Governance of the Manchester School District,” filed by state Rep. Pat Long.
Unofficial results released by City Clerk Matt Normand from Tuesday’s municipal election, show nine of those individuals elected to seats on the commission — Tim Baines, Jimmy Lehoux, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester, Mary Freitas, Mike Lopez, Will Infantine, John Clayton, Joseph Lachance and Kathleen Sullivan.
The panel is tasked with developing a local procedure to revise, amend, or replace the Manchester School District charter.
The charter commission will study if the Board of School Committee should determine its own budget number, rather than wait to be assigned a budget figure to work with by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen — in essence, potentially giving school board members the authority to put their own budget together.
Any change to the charter must be approved by voters through a ballot question.
In 2001, voters passed by a 4,000-vote majority a city charter amendment changing the school district to a city department. That amendment was later struck down by the courts, which ruled that it violated state law. The Legislature changed the law in 2003, but the change has yet to be vetted in the courts.
Long’s bill establishing a charter commission reads, “to develop a local procedure, which does not require the approval of the legislature, to revise, amend, or replace the Manchester school district charter.”
“The charter commission shall submit its recommendations for a procedure to revise, amend, or replace the Manchester school district charter in the form of a ballot question to the Manchester school district voters for a vote at the November 2020 regular election,” the bill reads.
On Monday, the state Supreme Court granted the city’s request for an emergency stay of a lower court’s order, allowing officials to proceed with Tuesday’s election “subject to further judicial review.” The emergency stay was requested by city attorneys after Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge David Anderson ruled on a lawsuit filed by four-term state Rep. Mark Warden, R-Manchester, ordering election officials to either find a way to place Warden’s name on Tuesday’s ballot or postpone the election to a later date.
Warden challenged the election in court, claiming he wasn’t allowed to run after being told in October he missed the filing period, which ran from July 8 through July 18. Warden argued that the bill establishing the commission would have put the filing period between the dates of Oct. 9 and Oct. 18.