We’ve all heard the term Shock and Awe. Well after last night’s budget presentation by Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas, the term Shock and Awful comes to mind. While the mayor did hold to his pledge to not lay any employees and did fund the expansion of the police department to two hundred twenty seven officers, he wasn’t really able to close
that six million dollar gap he said existed between revenues and expenses. In order to meet the tax cap without layoffs, Gatsas chose not to fund either the budget’s contingency or severance line items. He said departments would have to find a way to fund retirements and unforeseen expenses from their departmental budgets if the city couldn’t find a way to restore funding. There may also be a three million dollar short fall in the city’s health insurance line item. All three of the expenses are unknown in any given budget year, but projections based on past experience forecast a potential six million dollar gap the aldermen will have to wrestle with. The mayor also proposed reducing the school district’s budget request by half a million dollars, a move he said they knew was coming and would not affect the priorities established in Superintendent Debra Livingston‘s budget presentation to the Board of School Committee.
After the meeting, Ward Two Alderman Ron Ludwig expressed concern over proposed staffing levels at the Fire Department; levels Gatsas said Fire Chief James Burkush proposed to him and said would not affect public safety. Ward Nine Alderman Barbara Shaw said the board had quote “a lot of work to do” end quote. Ward Eight Alderman Tommy Katsiantonis told Girard at Large that the budget situation is very bad, but not unexpected. He said the city’s going through a difficult time and that’s reflected in the budget. Ward One Alderman Joyce Craig and Ward Three Alderman Patrick Long, the two that have led aldermanic budget efforts in
recent years, seemed to agree with the mayor’s call to ditch the political gamesmanship that seems to arise over budgets and start the process with quote “a blank slate and an open mind.” All revenue options, including Pay As You Throw are on the table said Long. Craig added that a tax cap override needs to be looked at too. Both expected the difficult numbers, but found the potential short-funding of the health insurance line surprising. During his address, Gatsas said his role in forming the budget would not end with his presentation and urged all parties to work together in light of the city’s stark budget realities to find what he called “sustainable solutions” to resolve the issues. We’ve linked to the full text of Gatsas’ speech, which includes all the budget documents released last night and our live blog of the presentation from this news read at Girard at Large dot com and will be talking about it this morning, of course.
Two bits of good budget news. The mayor slated one point two million dollars for road repairs and Girard at Large has learned that Ward 12 Alderman Keith Hirschmann, whose cell phone went off during the presentation while he was texting and otherwise sending smoke signals to Alderman at Large Joe Kelly Levasseur, has told his colleagues he will be working on an alternate budget of his own. And, yes, I wish today weren’t April Fools Day because that’s a real news item.
News from our own backyard continues after this.
Late yesterday afternoon, Girard at Large obtained and verified the authenticity of an email from someone who was in a March 28 meeting held between Commissioner of Education Virginia Barry and approximately one hundred superintendents across the
state. Barry apparently holds a monthly meeting called the Commissioner’s Meeting with superintendents. Sources tell Girard at Large that the Department of Education doesn’t believe these meetings between taxpayer funded personnel which affect school governance in the state are public, therefore they don’t publish public
notices, agendas or minutes of these meetings. In the meeting, Barry is alleged to have said that she quote “believed that local control in New Hampshire should be eliminated.” Before you think that’s far fetched consider this: Barry brought Common Core architect Mark Tucker to address the legislature a few short months ago as the War Over Common Core was heating up in this state. Tucker, who has a history of consulting with the Dept of Ed. penned an article last May, which we brought to your attention, not only argure the need to eliminate local control to nationalize education, but also offering a strategy to get it done. It sure looks to us that the board and department of education have followed his proscriptions so far. Moreover, in an article published in the Nashua Telegraph yesterday, State Board of Education Chairman Tom Raffio shot down the Nashua Teacher’s Union request for an alternate test saying and I quote “the Smarter Balanced test has to proceed, and a school district, whether it’s Nashua or
anybody else, can’t substitute in a different test, or whatever. You can’t do that. Otherwise we could put federal funding and our agreements at
risk.” This is a marked departure from what D O E officials, including the Commissioner have said in the past regarding school districts obtaining waivers to use other than the Common Core aligned Smarter Balanced Assessment. You starting to get the picture here? PUBLISHER’S NOTE: Girard at Large has obtained information that challenges this report. We will have complete details on tomorrow’s show.
Finally this morning a public service announcement, Parenting New Hampshire will hold an educational seminar entitled “Perspectives on Autism,” tonight from five to eight at the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester. Educators and family members of children with autism, including parents, grandparents, siblings, and caregivers are invited to attend to explore autism’s different perspectives, how it impacts children and families and the resources that are available in New Hampshire for individuals with autism. For more information, including a speakers list or to get tickets, visit Parenting NH dot com.
That’s news from our own backyard, Girard at Large hour ___ is straight ahead.