MANCHESTER, N.H. – Earlier this week, the Manchester Board of Aldermen approved a request from the Manchester School Charter Commission for an additional $10,000 to their budget.
Coming into this week, the Commission has spent approximately $20,000 and has approximately $4,000 left in its budget.
Manchester School Charter Commission chair Michael Lopez requested the additional funding due to ongoing legal fees as well as advertisements with the New Hampshire Union Leader to meet public meeting announcement requirements.
Ward 8 Alderman Michael Porter opposed the request until additional information could be provided on why this money was needed.
“Personally, I feel the commission mismanaged their money and the taxpayers should not be on the hook for their gross mismanagement,” said Porter.
Ward 4 Alderman Jim Roy also felt the request was premature, with Ward 7 Alderman Ross Terrio believing that the attorneys working for the Commission cost too much.
Ward 3 Alderman Pat Long disagreed with these sentiments, citing the numerous legal questions faced by the Charter Commission, which is tasked with providing a recommendation on potentially revising, amending or replacing the Manchester School District charter.
Ward 5 Alderman Anthony Sapienza also supported the request, feeling that it would be inappropriate to micromanage the Commission in the duties they have been assigned.
A motion to table the request was supported by Roy, Porter and Terrio as well as Ward 6 Alderman Elizabeth Moreau, Ward 9 Alderman Barbara Shaw, Ward 12 Alderman Keith Hirschmann and At-Large Alderman Joseph Kelly Levasseur. That motion to table was opposed by Long and Sapienza as well was Ward 1 Alderman Kevin Cavanaugh, Ward 2 Alderman Will Stewart, Ward 10 Alderman Bill Barry, Ward 11 Alderman Normand Gamache and At-Large Alderman Dan O’Neil.
Mayor Joyce Craig broke the deadlock by voting against the motion to table.
A motion to approve the request then passed 8-6, with all of the Aldermen repeating their initial votes except for Shaw, who approved the request.
One day later, Lopez defended his request when the Commission met, with Commission Member Jimmy Lehoux questioning whether the request for funding was premature.
On Wednesday, the Commission also took public comment on proposed recommendations.
One of the key changes is the removal of the mayor from the Board of School Committee (BOSC) a move that Craig supports.
Craig’s opponent in the 2019 mayoral election, Victoria Sullivan, spoke in opposition to removing the mayor from the BOSC, stating that the mayor provides additional accountability to the BOSC.
However, this opinion was in the minority with over half a dozen other people indicating their general support for the Commission as a whole as well as fiscal independence for the BOSC from the Aldermen on school budget appropriation matters.
Ward 4 BOSC Member Leslie Want particularly agreed with this move, stating that the mayor has enough responsibility for running city departments, especially during the pandemic.
Other comments during the hearing also recommended potentially removing an at-large member from the BOSC to prevent tie votes, allowing the BOSC to override the city tax cap with a two-thirds vote and challenging state law that puts ownership of school buildings in the hands of the city rather than the school district.