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Nashua Board of Education reviews $102 million spending plan

Union Leader Correspondent

February 16. 2014 8:14PM

NASHUA — The Board of Education combed through the technology section of the proposed 2015 school budget in its latest round of a piece-by-piece review of the $102 million spending plan.

Superintendent Mark Conrad’s recommended budget calls for an increase of $5 million, or a 5.2 percent hike in spending over this year. Mayor Donnalee Lozeau has warned board members that the city, and its taxpayers, are strapped and can’t afford to increase school spending by 2.1 percent.

But much of the proposed increase covers items the board cannot control. Roughly $3.3 million will cover the cost of contracted raises, $1 million will pay for increases in transportation bills and heating costs are also rising.

“We are going to have to look at our priorities,” said BOE Chairman George Farrington referring to the few areas of the budget where spending can be reined in. “Personally, I think the district is going to have to step back and ask, ’Do we really need this?’”

Technology may or may not be one of those areas. Over the past several years, the school district has worked hard to update its computers, software and tech infrastructure.

In 2011, about 72 percent of the district’s desktop computers and laptops had been in use for six or more years. This year, only 43 percent of the hardware stock is more than six years old, and 47 percent was bought within the past three years.

The current budget proposal calls for $1.3 million for technology, a $175,000 increased over this year’s tech spending. The additional money would cover the costs of equipment, software, contract services and more hours for a staff on the help desk.

Several of the educational reforms being implemented required dependable technology and updates.

BOE member David Murotake asked if the district had what it needed for students to begin taking the Common Core Standards-based assessment tests that will be required in the spring of 2015. Those exams are taken online, and wireless systems at the high schools have had chronic glitches that have kept students from using laptops and other devices.

The administration is evaluating the district’s ability to take the online exams as well as any possible upgrades that may be needed.

The 2015 budget recommends spending just over $482,000 on software, $24,500 more than this year. The increased spending would cover the $5,600 for a program to track a more complicated teacher evaluation process that is being implemented, $4,000 to enhance Edulog, an online program that lets parents check bus schedules as well as $10,000 for miscellaneous instruction and tech support.

Because of the ongoing investment in new equipment, the district was able to reduce the amount proposed for technology services and repairs to $75,000 or $25,000 less than this year.

At the next budget workshop, scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 18, at 7 p.m. in the lecture halls at Nashua High North, the board will review spending for curriculum, utilities and non-instructional costs.

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