Goldhardt had no input into the process

MANCHESTER, NH  February 21, 2022–With a public hearing set on the budget proposed by Manchester school administrators this Wednesday, February 23, 2022, it would seem that nobody is looking to take ownership of the document that’s raised eyebrows by hiking spending by over $5 million, more than a quarter of which is proposed to fund new positions in the district office and hefty pay raises for three district employees.  (See graphic below.) 

This continues a multi-year trend of adding high priced administrators to the district office as enrollment collapses.  In recent years, several “network coordinators” have been added at taxpayer expense.  Directors for diversity and community partnerships have been added thanks to short term grants from Manchester Proud, which will expire in one to two years, leaving taxpayers to pick up the tab for those positions, too.

Goldhardt: Not me…

In trying to determine the origin and rational for the proposed new positions and pay raises, Girard at Large has learned that former Superintendent Dr. John Goldhardt had no input into the budget, recent news reports saying he did notwithstanding.  Having been told that Mayor Joyce Craig had banned him from budget proceedings, Girard at Large contacted Goldhardt for comment.  He would not comment on the allegation that Craig had cut him out, saying only that:

I was not part of the development of the recommended FY23 budget.

He did say that he started the budget process by asking his “cabinet” to submit their FY23 budget requests.  “The Cabinet” is comprised of upper level executive positions in the district office.  Sources familiar with the situation confirm that those who sit atop various departments within the district were asked to submit their requests to Karen DeFrancis, the district’s business administrator, which is part of the normal process.  Sources were either unwilling or unable to describe the process that led to the recommendations pending before the board, though all agreed that Goldhardt was not involved.

Gillis: New positions, raises required for transition?

One person said the proposed pay raises had created a lot of hard feelings within the administrative offices, suggesting they were “rewards” for those believed to be close with newly appointed interim superintendent Jennifer Gillis.   Gillis presented the budget to the Finance and Facilities Committee and is expected to present it to the full board on Wednesday night.  She supported the raises and promotions recommended for the district’s communications and transportations coordinators, the raise proposed for the chief information officer and the new positions.  She said they were necessary to build a succession plan in light of Goldhardt’s departure; a statement that had many observers scratching their heads.

The proposed operating budget does not include the expenditure of nearly $20 million in routine federal funds or more than $27 million in federal COVID impact funding (ESSR funds).  As noted below, this brings the total revenues the district will spend, pending the approval of the operating budget, to more than a staggering $241 million.

The proposed operating budget, which is north of $189 million does stay within the proposed tax cap.  It spends all new tax revenue available under the cap, as well as expected increases in state aid.