Board upholds security system veto

NASHUA – The Board of Aldermen on Tuesday sustained the mayor’s veto of a $2.2 million school security system.

Only three of 12 aldermen present at the meeting voted to override the veto. It required nine votes for the override to be successful.

Mayor Donnalee Lozeau issued the veto soon after school officials announced they had overspent the school budget by $3 million for the fiscal year that ended June 30. The former school superintendent and business manager attributed the shortfall to a miscalculation in salary and special-education accounts.

Lozeau said at the time she wanted to free up the money while city and school officials looked for a way to cover the deficit.

The resolution for the school security system was approved by a 12-1 vote of aldermen before they knew of the school budget over-expenditure.

Later, Lozeau suggested a solution of transferring money from the school capital reserve account – the same account that would fund the school security system.

In moving to override the veto, Alderman-at-Large Fred Teeboom said the security system was important to safeguard students and schools.

Teeboom said there have been eight separate incidents at schools in the ism, such as someone shooting a BB through a window or breaking into a school and scribbling obscenities on a chalkboard, Teeboom said.

The system – a combination of mostly software and some hardware – is designed to lockdown schools and classrooms in the case of an intruder, Teeboom said.

Consultants said city schools are “extremely vulnerable” to intruders, Teeboom said.

“I don’t think the veto is wise,” Teeboom said. “I don’t think it is necessary” because the money isn’t part of the mayor’s solution for covering the deficit, he said.

Alderman-at-Large Steven Bolton, the board president, and Ward 9 Alderman Jeffrey Cox joined Teeboom in voting to override the veto.

Speaking at the beginning of the meeting, Lozeau urged aldermen to uphold her veto to give school officials “flexibility” in setting new spending priorities in light of the deficit.

Other school projects, such as replacing a heating and ventilation system, might be a more pressing concern with limited funds, Lozeau said.

Currently, the school capital reserve fund totals $7.8 million, including $2.2 million for a school security system that the mayor vetoed after the shortfall was discovered.

If aldermen had overridden the veto, then $5.6 million would remain, from which the $3.3 million would be transferred.

Lozeau told the Board of Education on July 29 that she would have allowed the resolution funding the school security system to take effect without her signature.

While the system might prevent an armed intruder from entering schools, it wouldn’t prevent the main threat to students – from other students within the school, Lozeau told the school board.

Alderman-at-Large Brian McCarthy said he hasn’t heard of one past incident, including those Teeboom had mentioned, that would have been prevented if the security system had been in place.

Security systems in general are “a good idea,” McCarthy said, but he sided with the mayor that, given the deficit, other school projects might be more pressing.

Also on Tuesday, the Board of Aldermen heard a first reading of the resolution to transfer money from the school capital reserve account to cover the Fiscal 2009 deficit.

The resolution was referred to the Budget Review Committee, which is scheduled to discuss the proposal Monday. The resolution then will come back to the full Board of Aldermen for a vote at an Aug. 20 special meeting.

City officials said they want to put the issue to rest by the end of the month so the books can be closed on Fiscal 2009.

Meanwhile, the Board of Education has been debating which cuts to make to cover a $3 million shortfall in Fiscal 2010, which began July 1.