MANCHESTER, NH — Gov. Chris Sununu presented a ceremonial $20.8 million check to Manchester School District officials, highlighting what he called historic investments in the city.
Prior to the event, held at the Bakersfield School Monday afternoon, protesters gathered outside the school. One woman held a sign stating, “Thank the Democrats, not Sununu.” Another read, “The true school champions are those who fought the fight not those who drop off the check.”
Manchester School District Superintendent Dr. John Goldhardt said the real stars at the event are the students. “It’s for them that we do this work,” he said.
He thanked the senators and state representatives who “championed our schools” and worked hard together to reach a compromise budget.
“This financial increase for us is substantial and we greatly appreciate it because it will help children and it is for them,” he said.
Goldhardt said the district would use the funding “wisely and prudently.”
As a result of the compromise budget reached Sept. 30, Manchester will receive an additional $20,861,996 in funding from the state. Nearly $14.9 million toward schools, and $5.8 million for municipal revenue sharing.
The Governor said the state was in the enviable position of being in an economic boom and in a unique position to have a budget surplus.
“When you have extra money it isn’t the state’s money. It’s your money. It belongs to the cities and towns,” he said.
He credited State Senators Lou D’Allesandro and Donna Soucy, both Democrats from Manchester, for their hard work in reaching the compromise budget. Neither was able to attend the presentation.
The majority of elected officials attending the presentation were Republicans although Board of School Committee vice chairman Art Beaudry and Alderman Pat Long, both Democrats, attended, among others.
Noticeably absent was Mayor Joyce Craig, a Democrat, who issued this statement:
“The Manchester School District is slated to receive much-needed education funding after a decade of cuts in state aid that have cost Manchester taxpayers more than $50 million. Currently, our educators, administrators, and school staff are asked to do a lot with limited resources — and the increase the Manchester School District will receive over the next two years can help with implementation of new curriculum, professional development, supplies, and more.
I want to thank the legislature and the Governor for agreeing to a budget that provides for and continues to strengthen our public schools.”
According to Lauren Smith, the mayor’s Policy and Strategic Outreach Director, the mayor’s office was not notified of the presentation nor was Craig invited.
“In her first term, Mayor Craig worked diligently to secure more funding for Manchester public schools. She testified in-person for more education funding and offered additional written testimony to state leadership. Mayor Craig also hosted a meeting in Manchester with state legislators and the superintendent to discuss the need for increased state education funding.
“On a local level, Mayor Craig worked with the College and University Council to apply for, and the district was awarded, the highly-competitive $10.5 million GEAR UP grant. She is also partnering with Manchester Proud to develop the first-ever community-based strategic plan for the school district, at no cost to Manchester taxpayers. In addition, in her tax-cap budget, Mayor Craig invested the most money in the Manchester School District in 14 years.
“The Mayor’s Office is glad the Governor ended his stand-off over the state budget and that communities across the state, including Manchester, finally have access to much-needed education funding.”
Republican Mayoral candidate Victoria Sullivan, who had taken a fall down her front steps Sunday and limped down a stairwell to reach the school’s library where the presentation was made, said she believes the Governor understands where the city has struggled and said the additional funding will go a long way in addressing those issues.
One of those areas, she said, is a citywide curriculum, a problem for children whose families move from apartment to apartment and to different schools.
She said she is grateful for the additional revenue that will give taxpayers some relief, especially after the Board of Mayor and Alderman overrode the tax cap.
State Representative Mary Heath, D-Manchester, issued a news release saying the district received the largest education funding increase in the state’s history “no thanks to Chris Sununu.”
She said he tried to cut Manchester’s school budget by $500,000 and when that didn’t happen, “he delayed education funding by months — just because he wanted tax breaks for large corporations. It is only because Granite Staters from across the state and from all political parties held him accountable and demanded that he do his job, that he finally gave students and their schools the resources they need. The bottom line is no matter what Chris Sununu says today, his actions show that he continues to put special interests first and Granite Staters last,” she said.
Sununu, she said, proposed $155,624,290 in education funding for Manchester for 2020 and 2021 which is $14,992,516 less than the $170,616,806 Democrats secured in education funding in the compromise budget.
Beaudry said the BOSC Monday night will ask the aldermanic board to allocate the funds for the district. In the next school board meeting, he said the superintendent will outline where the funds should be used.
He said 90 percent of the funds the district is receiving are one-time funds so the district wants to use them for one-time expenses.
Some of the funds will be placed in the district’s expendable trusts, which cover shortfalls in accounts such as healthcare, special education, athletics, and maintenance. He said special education is typically the one account that always has a shortfall.
Presently, the district has $1.5 million in those trusts but Beaudry said according to actuaries, the district should have 15 percent of its $190 million operating budget in them, or $28.5 million.