Vargas presents preliminary school budget

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School Superintendent Bolgen Vargas/FILE

MANCHESTER, NH — School Superintendent Dr. Bolgen Vargas unveiled the proposed district budget during the March 11 Board of School Committee meeting at City Hall.

Included in the tax cap budget request of $172,236,978 sent to aldermen for approval are allocations to cover redistricting and high school band uniforms. A second budget proposal, of $176,036,978, included $2.5 million to cover collective bargaining agreements and another $1.3 million for technology upgrades.

⇒ Weigh in: Public comment on the budget is scheduled for March 25 at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall.

Board Vice Chair Arthur Beaudry moved adding the $2.5 million for six outstanding contracts, including the stalled collective bargaining agreements with the teachers’ union. Rich Girard described it as “handcuffs” on negotiators. After much discussion, Beaudry’s motion passed unanimously, with an abstention by Girard.

Vargas outlined the challenges and constraints of the budget, including a $500,000 loss of state Stabilization Grant aid, and another $250,000 loss due to declined student enrollment – down 15 percent over the past 10 years. Vargas said the increase in the number of students being homeschooled or opting for a charter school was 9 percent.

The proposed budget also includes staff adjustments, with 25 positions added across elementary and middle schools, and 12.5 eliminated through attrition at the high school level.

As proposed, the tax cap budget reflects a 2.3 increase over the current budget. 

Other savings reflected in the budget included moving the district office into West High School, and  relocating the BRIDGE program from 521 Maple Street, reducing district-owned space by 20,000 square feet.

Vargas outlined the following goals:

  • Strengthen the schools by implementing the redistricting plan.
  • Improve school technology infrastructure and increase access to devices.
  • Continue to deliver vital services while maintaining current class size.
  • Reduce the structural budget gap to secure fiscal and programmatic stability for the district.
  • Close this year’s budget gap with minimal impact on students and staff.
  • Arrest the continuing decline of student enrollment.

Editor’s note: The story has been updated to correct the board’s vote on Vice Chair Beaudry’s motion. We strive for accuracy, but human error happens. We humans here at the InkLink love to make corrections when brought to our attention. Thanks for reading carefully.

His budget presentation is below: