NASHUA — While school officials are estimating that the district will pull in $600,000 less in revenue this year than last, it is a $10,000 loss in parking and bus fees that has district officials confused.
Last year the district pulled in more than $40.2 million in revenue. This year, district Chief Financial Officer Dan Donovan is projecting revenue of roughly $39.6 million. Most of the discrepancy comes from an estimated drop in state and federal funding, but a $10,000 loss in student parking fees is causing consternation among district officials.
It was brought to the attention of the Board of Education during Monday night's meeting that Nashua High School North officials, without consulting anyone or having approval, started offering free or reduced parking to students who are receiving free or reduced meals.
"They shouldn't have done that, and I am not sure how they did that. The other high school does not offer that, and we have historically not done so," Donovan said.
Superintendent Mark Conrad said he would organize a meeting soon of North and South administrators to come up with a policy that is uniform to both schools. He said they would look at ending the program or expanding it to include both schools.
"However, parking fees are something that are determined at the board level, and the board should have been involved," Conrad said.
He added that if it were decided to keep the reduced parking program, it would require board approval. Conrad said this is the first time he can remember the district facing an issue like this.
"These are revenues collected by the school district and sent to the city coffers to offset tax rates, it is not something that individual schools should be making decisions on. This is the first time I can remember this happening," Donovan said.
Conrad agreed that he can't recall a similar situation ever happening before, where a school made a decision affecting revenue without consulting district administration, let alone the Board of Education.
Last year, Donovan said the district collected $45,000 in parking and bus pass fees, but that this year he estimates closer to $35,000 will be raised. Students on free and reduced lunches already receive free or reduced cost bus passes, which most students have to pay for.
While Conrad said he is not sure how North determined to institute the reduced parking fees program, he said he very much doubts there was any willful attempt by North administrative staff to circumvent district rules.
North Principal David Ryan was unavailable for comment.
Donovan said the $10,000 difference between last year and this year is also from South selling fewer parking passes.
"South decided to sell fewer parking passes after hearing complaints from students that they couldn't find open parking spaces," Donovan said.
Donovan added that the primary reason revenue is down in general is because of a change to the equation of how the state calculates funding from the state adequacy grant.
"We get most of our revenue from that, about $35 million," Donovan said.
Along with the loss in parking funds, Donovan said he expects to get $400,000 less from the adequacy grant, $100,000 less from Medicaid and $85,000 less from the state building aid program.