Vote sidetracks special ed aid plan

NASHUA – One alderman said the appropriation was the result of bad budgeting.

Another said there was no rush for aldermen to approve the spending contained in the legislation.

By a 7-7 vote Tuesday, the Board of Aldermen failed to pass appropriating $1.38 million in state aid into a special education expendable trust fund account.

Following the split, the board voted to table the legislation that deals with what’s called “catastrophic aid” to cover special education costs. A previous attempt to table the bill failed by a voice vote.

Alderman-at-Large Fred Teeboom amended the failed bill, even though he ultimately voted against the legislation. The bill’s original wording obscured that the money required an exemption from the city’s spending cap, Teeboom said.

The appropriation would allow state money to reimburse money the school district has already spent, but Teeboom said the school department had fallen into a pattern of underbudgeting and then relying on state aid to make up the difference.

“They should have budgeted appropriately for it,” Teeboom said. “It’s a bad budgeting practice. I believe in truth in budgeting. You should fully budget what you expect to get back.”

Teeboom and other aldermen said the school department will get the money by the end of the fiscal year June 30, but there’s no rush.

It’s uncertain how much the school department will actually need to cover costs, said Ward 7 Alderman Dick Flynn.

Aldermen shouldn’t approve the supplemental appropriation until the amount is known, he said. “It would be sensible for us to take a step back,” Flynn said.

Plus, the school department shouldn’t be in any hurry to get the money, which amounts to about “three days” worth of spending given the size of the school budget, he said.

However, Alderman-at-Large Brian McCarthy said the school department did act responsibly by budgeting for less than would be reimbursed by the state aid.

The alternative would be to budget the full amount and raise the money by tax dollars, he said. Then, when the state money arrived, the extra money in the budget would end up in reserves or be spent elsewhere, McCarthy said.

Because the resolution required an exemption from the spending cap, it needed support of 10 of the 15 board members to pass.

Joining Teeboom and Flynn in opposing the bill were Alderman-at-Large David Deane and ward Aldermen Mark Cookson, Michael Tamposi Jr., Paul Chasse Jr., and Dave MacLaughlin.

Ward 4 Alderman Marc Plamondon was absent from the meeting.

The resolution can be discussed or amended at a future meeting if the board votes to remove it from the table.