BOE meeting to address budgets

NASHUA – School district officials are expected to recommend tonight a list of vacant positions that will need to remain unfilled to help make up for a projected $2 million budget shortfall.

The list of positions will be presented to the Board of Education at a meeting scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m. at the school district’s administrative offices at 141 Ledge St.

Two weeks ago, administrators discovered that in addition to overspending last year’s budget by $3.36 million, a $2 million deficit was also projected for the upcoming school year.

As a first step toward making up the shortfall for 2009-10, incoming Superintendent Mark Conrad said he would review vacant positions and recommend those that aren’t essential remain unfilled.

Conrad, who is splitting time between Nashua and Bedford before officially taking over at the end of August, said he would present the list to principals Tuesday to get their thoughts.

Conrad, whose primary background is in school district finances, said further steps might need to be taken, such as cutting spending on supplies, substitutes and other expenses.

“We’re not coming in with a recommendation that is going to completely close that gap, but it will be a first and substantial step,” Conrad told the board last week.

Meanwhile, the question still remains what will be done to make up for the deficit in last year’s budget.

Mayor Donnalee Lozeau said she plans on presenting a “solution” to the Board of Education at tonight’s meeting to deal with last year’s deficit.

The proposal, the details of which she would not elaborate on, would require the school board’s approval.

“This deals strictly with being able to get the books closed,” Lozeau said.

In a July 24 memo to the Board of Aldermen, Lozeau wrote that the implications for not closing the city’s books in the black for FY09 are serious, including negative impacts to the tax rate, bong rating and annual audit.

“However, my goals for the FY09 budget were to maintain our healthy fund balance and have enough surplus to offset the tax rate in FY10,” she wrote.

“It still looks like we can accomplish both of these goals with the solution we will propose, but this does not diminish the need to put new safeguards in place,” she wrote.

If the Board of Education approves Lozeau’s proposal, it would also require the approval of the Board of Aldermen.

The Board of Aldermen has not scheduled any special meetings to deal with the deficit. Several members have said they are waiting for the Board of Education to take action before doing anything.

School district officials have not yet been able to explain how last year’s deficit occurred.

Jim Mealey, the district’s former head of finances, said faulty financial reports likely are what caused the deficit to go unnoticed until after the fiscal year ended June 30.

Conrad has formed a taskforce to investigate how the deficit occurred and how the situation can be avoided in the future.