School board cancels health insurance for members

June 19 – School board members vote to repeal district health insurance effective July 1 and will formally ask board members to increase school board members’ salary from $2,000 to $4,000 per year starting in 2024.

The vote came after a request that Manchester School District return to an 80-20 split on the cost of health insurance for school board members – with the school district at 80% – was sent to the committee for further discussion weeks ago.

Policy committee members — Leslie Want, Nicole Lebley, Peter Berish, Sean Barr and Jason Bonilla — voted unanimously in April to strike down a proposal made in 2019 to approve a 5% annual increase in the cost of health insurance for school members starting in 2019.

At the time, policy committee members voted to recommend a return to the previous arrangement, with board members paying 20% ​​of the cost. In January 2022, the split was 60% for board members and 40% for the district.

Committee members agreed last week to scrap health insurance entirely for school board members.

School board members recommended that instead of receiving health insurance benefits, future school board members should instead receive a salary of $4,000 a year, the same amount that the mayor and board members receive.

Ward 11’s Leapley first raised the issue in July 2021 in a letter to board members, detailing how before her election she was covering through the Affordable Care Act market.

Once elected, she is no longer eligible for this scheme because she receives healthcare coverage through the Manchester School District as an elected official with employee status.

“In other words, I discovered that in order to serve on the school board, I had to pay for the privilege.”

Karen DeFrancis, the school district’s financial director, said three school board members currently have health insurance through the district, and four of them receive dental benefits.

Adjusted city, approved school budget

Last month, city councilors voted to override the city’s tax cap to approve a $378 million budget for fiscal year 2023. Rising real estate appraisals may eventually keep the tax rate below the cap.

The budget, prepared by Mayor and House Speaker Pat Long, provides $187 million for schools and $169 million for city services.

In his tax cap budget submitted this spring, Mayor Joyce Craig proposed spending $376 million — including $167 million on the city side and $189 million for the school district.

Long’s budget for schools provides $2 million less than the mayor proposed, citing the millions in emergency federal funding available to city schools and the passage of HB 420, which will bring $5.2 million from the state to the Manchester school district in fiscal year 23.

School board members last week approved a revised budget, which brings in the new lower amount through reductions in employee benefits, out-of-district tuition ($500,000) and principal delays on bond payments this year ($965,000).

School officials said about $1,150,000 in employee benefits have been cut because the state will cover the cost of those benefits for one year.

Further reductions of $709,000 were made in transportation costs because these costs will now be covered by grants.

School officials said the $2 million cuts do not include any layoffs or affect student services.

Grants for community projects

If Senate Bill 420 becomes law, an estimated $3.9 million will be provided to Manchester, making the approved cuts a moot point. SB 420 establishes “Exceptional Needs Grants,” which will provide $25 million to schools with lower property values ​​proportional to the number of students they serve.

Last week, Mayor Craig and officials in the Department of Planning and Community Development released a full list of first round recipients, along with information about the start of the second round of funding, from the Manchester Events and Activation Community Grant Programme, which was launched in February. .

During the first round of funding, 29 community groups and nonprofit organizations received funds totaling $253,862.98. The beneficiaries were selected by a committee made up of representatives from the Department of Planning and Community Development, the Department of Public Works, the Office of Economic Development, the Department of Health and the city clerk’s office.

A full analysis of grant recipients can be found at bit.ly/3b8i3T4.

The program was approved by the mayor and local council members in 2021 as part of the recommendations of the US Bailout Act. The Community Events and Activation Grant (CEAG) Program has committed $1 million to support and increase the number of community projects and events in an effort to help Manchester recover from the negative effects of COVID-19.

“The first round of recipients used their grant money for dozens of exciting community programs and initiatives such as community-wide celebrations with live music, food, and dance; sporting opportunities with football, basketball, and disc golf; and neighborhood improvements including community gardens, murals, and racks,” Craig said in a statement. bicycles.”

“I’m excited to see what our community also has to offer in this next round of funding.”

Manchester Moves is working with Public Works and Revision Energy to install solar lighting in two of the city’s railway tunnels.

“This lighting will greatly enhance the safety and usability of our trails for all users,” said Don Waldron of Manchester Moves, a volunteer organization that received a grant through the first round of funding. “This project would not have been possible at this time without the assistance of CEAG.”

The second round of funding opened on June 15, and applications are due by August 15. We strongly encourage applicants to submit their applications as soon as possible to expedite the application review process.

Applicants can apply for up to $10,000 per grant for community projects and events that contribute to economic development, tourism, and support a vibrant and healthy community. All applicants are required to submit a minimum 25% match for each project or event, which can include direct funding, in-kind donations or volunteer hours.

An application for the Manchester Community Events and Activation Scholarship Program can be found at https://bit.ly/3QqSWLl.

Completed applications may be emailed to PCD@manchesternh.gov with the subject line “CEAG Application”, or mailed to City of Manchester, Planning and Community Development, Attn: CEAG Application, 1 City Hall Plaza, Manchester, NH 03101.

Email pcd@manchesternh.gov or call (603) 792-6725 with any questions.

Paul Filley is the City Hall reporter for New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. You can reach him at pfeely@unionleader.com.