Aldermen forgive $2.8 million loan to school district

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Manchester School District Office
Manchester School District office. File Photo

MANCHESTER, NH – The Manchester Board of Mayor and Aldermen (BMA) approved the forgiveness of $2.8 million on a loan to the Manchester School District (MSD) for the purchase of textbooks.

The loan was given 10 years ago from the city’s one-time expenditure fund and was originally valued at $3.2 million. MSD made one $400,000 repayment on the loan and then received permission to pause additional repayments until further notice.

Opponents among board members of the loan forgiveness said that the $2.8 million could be used to help shore up other parts of the city budget. They also felt that MSD’s financial situation would improve after the pandemic subsides.

Several forgiveness opponents such as Barbara Shaw (Ward 9) sought to obtain at least the 2022 expected $400,000 payment plus delayed interest and then said they’d consider forgiving the rest.

Michael Porter (Ward 8) also noted that MSD also charges city departments when they conduct business on school property.

Supporters of the forgiveness noted that no one seemed to be able to find the original terms of the loan and the one-time expenditure fund was rarely used and is intended for occasional capital expenditures such as the textbook purchase.

MSD Superintendent Dr. John Goldhardt also added that the district has not had a line item for textbooks in recent years and if the loan was not forgiven, money allocated for other programs such as professional development would need to be transferred to pay the loan.

Supporters also felt the concept of the loan was foolish, with Anthony Sapienza (Ward 5) referring to it as transferring money from one’s left pocket to their right pocket.

“Really, squeezing the school system for $2.8 million to help on the city side, that’s nonsensical,” said Sapienza. “We should have just bought textbooks to begin with, it’s reprehensible. Forgiving this debt won’t go to help the bottom line of taxpayers.”

The motion to forgive the loan passed 8-5. Jim Roy (Ward 4), Ross Terrio (Ward 7), Shaw, Keith Hirschmann (Ward 12) and Joseph Levasseur (At-Large) voted in opposition.

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