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State Funding Gap Leaves Questions for N.H. Technical Program

Without legislative amendments, Rochester's Richard W. Creteau Regional Technology Center could be short $400,000 for ongoing upgrades. The state had initially promised $4 million, but cuts reduced that figure to $3.6 million.

by Kyle Stucker, Foster's Daily Democrat / March 6, 2019

(TNS) — Barring legislative amendments, Rochester, N.H., Mayor Caroline McCarley says inflation could result in the Lilac City getting roughly $400,000 less than the state had promised it for career technical center upgrades.

Rochester is currently slated to receive roughly $3.6 million in the coming biennium, not the $4 million the state had originally promised, McCarley told City Council Tuesday night. She said that's because the state made across-the-board reductions in response to inflation in "various" state budget lines, reducing the aid earmarked for Rochester's Richard W. Creteau Regional Technology Center.

"That's all the explanation we got," McCarley said while briefing City Council on the development.

The good news, according to McCarley, is that legislators seemed "very responsive" when she and Superintendent Mike Hopkins advocated for the full funding in Concord on Tuesday. McCarley said she and Hopkins joined officials from Hudson, another affected municipality, in requesting such an amendment.

The House is expected to make a number of changes to Gov. Chris Sununu's proposed two-year, $13.1 billion state budget as it passes through various committees in the coming weeks. The governor's proposed budget includes $8.6 million for career and technical education.

"Hopefully there will be some amendments to this," she said. "We'll keep you posted."

It was unknown Tuesday how a $400,000 reduction could impact the Creteau Center's renovation, which is underway and slated to be completed later this year. The project includes an addition, an overhauled facade and lobby, and various other improvements to help the outdated 1991 center's 16 programs.

In 2017, the House committed to appropriating $12 million toward the Creteau Center. The city committed to footing the remaining $4.8 million, or 25 percent, of the estimated $16.8 million project.

The state's $12 million in funding was to be split into an $8 million appropriation in the current biennium and the aforementioned $4 million appropriation for the upcoming biennium.

Rochester sought state funding, local officials have said, because it couldn't afford to make the upgrades on its own.

The city nearly missed out on state assistance due to a misunderstanding. State officials originally told Rochester that City Council only needed to take a non-binding vote on the city's portion of the project. However, state representatives felt in March 2017 that wasn't enough of a commitment and removed all of Rochester's funding from the state's budget. The House later restored it after Rochester officials testified in Concord and City Council took another vote, this time a firm, binding one.

As of Tuesday, the Creteau Center project was still on track and on budget, according to Deputy Mayor Ray Varney. Crews have been busy throughout the winter, completing various classrooms and phases of the project. Hopkins has said most of the renovations will be done by summer 2019 and that the project is slated for completion in November.

©2019 the Foster's Daily Democrat (Dover, N.H.). by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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