NASHUA — Aldermen had their first chance to examine the school district’s proposed $129 million budget on Tuesday, studying wages, enrollment projections and class sizes.
Daniel Donovan, the district’s chief operating officer, told the aldermanic Budget Review Committee that he anticipates an unexpended appropriation of about $825,000 for the current budget cycle, which ends June 30.
According to Donovan, Mayor Donnalee Lozeau has suggested that $600,000 in surplus funds be returned to the city to offset taxes. However, school officials stressed that the Board of Education has not yet voted on how much money will actually be given back.
“This is a rather large number of dollars to return,” said Alderman-at-Large David Deane, questioning whether some budgeted line items should be adjusted because they are no longer necessary. Deane mentioned a previous $100,000 transfer for energy fees, wondering if that was warranted.
Donovan said he favors the $100,000 energy reserve fund, which allows the district a safety net in the event of an extremely cold winter.
Deane said he wouldn’t want the children to suffer in cold classrooms, he was simply looking at the reserve fund from a different perspective because of the more than $800,000 surplus anticipated.
The school district’s proposed $129,178,710 budget for fiscal year 2014 is up about 1.8 percent from the existing budget, said Donovan.
Several employee wages were discussed on Tuesday, including salary raises for two assistant superintendent positions increasing from a combined $197,176 to $212,925.
Superintendent Mark Conrad said the positions are being filled by new individuals, and that at least one of the assistant superintendents has been receiving their previous salary for a high school principal because of the frozen salary position.
The budget accounts for nearly $1.6 million for 17 principal positions, almost the same as the existing assigned wages for the same amount of principals.
The salaries for 915 teachers are a combined $52.2 million, which is up slightly from the current budget of $52 million for 912 teachers, according to the proposed spending plan.
As for Conrad’s position, his salary is recommended to increase from $135,810 to $137,168 a year.
Alderman-at-Large James Donchess asked school officials about projected class sizes for next year. According to the superintendent, current enrollment is 11,895 students, and projections for the next school year are down slightly to 11,798 students.
A last-minute budget decision was made to add two teachers to help reduce class sizes at the elementary level, said Conrad. The district is taking steps to help keep class sizes low, he said, including the assignment of five more kindergarten teachers. The kindergarten classes are maxed out at 18 students for the Title One schools, he said.
First- and second-grade levels are expected to have an average class size of about 24 to 25 students for the upcoming school year, whereas fifth-grade classes will likely have closer to 23 to 27 students per classroom, said Conrad.