The Manchester Board School Committee had a marathon session last night at which Superintendent Debra Livingston presented three budgets: A so called “needs budget,” a budget that conforms to the city’s Tax Cap and a five year budget plan. It looks like it was the Association of Manchester Principals‘ turn at the microphones as several school principals spoke during the public comment session to ask the board to support Livingston’s budget and fight for it at the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. You can get all the details in our own Melanie Friese’s Live Blog Forum of the meeting. We’ve linked to it from this news read at Girard at Large dot com.
Livingston’s budget increases spending by more than four point one million dollars, which she said was two point five million dollars over the increase she said is allowed under the city’s Tax Cap. However, as a result of questions asked by at-Large Committee Member Rich Girard, it became clear that school officials had not accounted for the cap’s requirement to offset the loss of non-tax revenues with new tax revenues before spending can be increased. That effectively means the district has to reduce the current budget’s spending by the approximately two million dollars in lost state aid and tuition revenues before it can spend more than the current budget.
Ward Nine Committee Member Arthur Beaudry proposed freezing all expenditures that would increase the district’s debt service until the Board of Mayor and Aldermen determines the district’s budget. Those items included deferred maintenance and ten new school buses the district is obligated to buy under its contract with the Manchester Transit Authority. The motion was tabled.
In response to questions by Ward Two Committee Member Debra Langton, Livingston could not say which programs or teachers would have to be cut if the district had to work within the tax cap.
The affordability of the teachers union contract was a contentious point that ran through the meeting. Mayor Ted Gatsas resurrected the financial analysis done on the contract in light of budget figures showing the contract cost one point eight million dollars more in the proposed budget than if it hadn’t been adopted. After Livingston said the district wouldn’t fare well under the tax cap budget, Gatsas reminded her that she said the district would be able to work through the deficit projected by the financial analysis of the contract without breaking the cap. She said that unexpected special education costs and unrealized savings from the health insurance changes were to blame for the difference between then and now.
Also last night, after a lengthy discussion, the board approved Public Health Director Tim Soucy’s recommendation to put Narcan in the schools, albeit with some amendments. The board voted to allow it only in the middle and high schools for now, deferring action on the elementary schools. It also required buildings to be locked down in the event that Narcan is used and said that at least two adults had to be present when the nurse administered the drug. The training of school children to recognize overdose symptoms was removed from the policy.
The amended policy passed on a vote of ten to four, with Girard, Mary Georges of Ward Three, Ross Terrio of Ward Seven and John Avard of Ward Ten opposed. Ward Five’s Lisa Freeman was absent and did not vote. The dissenters were primarily concerned with the safety of students and staff who would be unprepared and unable to handle the psychotic, violent reactions some users have to being “Narcanned” with Girard pointing out that overdose calls typically involve four firefighters, a police officer and two paramedics which are far more capable of handling an adverse reaction than a school nurse and two teachers. American Medical Response Regional Director Christopher Stawasz confirmed that they had seen violent behavior from Narcanned addicts and was evasive on the question of whether or not he was comfortable with the idea that a nurse and a couple of school staff members could handle it.
Gatsas, who shared he was originally opposed to having Narcan in the schools, said he changed his mind after meeting with the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council whose members told him that heroin and prescription drugs were in the schools. Gatsas said it was worth the risk in the event a child’s life could be saved.
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News from our own backyard continues after this.
The Manchester Department of Public Works is extending the weekend hours of the Dunbarton Road Drop Off Facility. It will now be open from seven thirty to one on the first and third Saturdays of each month to better serve city residents. The department hopes the changes will improve customer convenience and mitigate service delays associated with the late-morning rushes they typically experience.
First District Congressman Frank Guinta appeared at the Manchester V A Medical Center yesterday to thank a crowd of veterans as part of a national program commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War. Guinta said quote:
“Years ago, New Hampshire’s Vietnam vets did not receive the thanks they deserved for their service and sacrifice defending this country. As we look back today, we can say with full confidence their efforts helped to win the Cold War, the defining conflict of the latter half of the 20th Century. We owe a special debt of gratitude, one that we can never repay, to the soldiers who did not return.”
Speaking of Guinta, this might be a good time to note that primary challenger Dan Innis has done an about face. The Seacoast businessman and U N H official who announced his candidacy for the First District’s seat suddenly announced he will not be a candidate.
The Bedford Police Department is reminding residents to lock their vehicles as there has been a rash of break-ins around town. Police Chief John Bryfonski announced the department has started the “Lock It or Lose It” campaign to encourage residents to lock their cars. Bryfonski said that over ninety percent of thefts from vehicles occur at residences when vehicle doors are left unlocked. In urging residents to lock their vehicle doors, he also cautioned residents to remove or keep valuable items out of sight.
That’s news from our own backyard! Girard at Large hour ___ is next!