The final number for the Consumer Price Index the city of Manchester must use to determine its tax cap is in and it’s bound to cause some heartburn for budget writers. In a memo to both the Board of Mayor and Aldermen and Board of School Committee, Finance Officer Bill Sanders advised that the C P I was up a mere seven tenths of a percent in two thousand fifteen and that the three year rolling average increase was a flat one percent. This means the city will have even less new tax revenue to dispense than predicted by Mayor Ted Gatsas in the battle over the teachers’ union contract.
Gatsas increased the one percent cap projected by Sanders to one point one percent in an attempt to offset the cost of the contract and accommodate other budgetary expenses the school district and city would have to contend with. Those numbers showed a large deficit between the cap and expected expenses, causing Gatsas to veto the contract in August.
As we know, that veto was overridden when Ward Two Alderman Ron Ludwig whose wife is a teacher and Ward Nine Alderman Barbara Shaw whose daughter is a teacher, decided to vote in favor of the contract, despite being prohibited from doing so by the city charter. They originally abstained as a result of the conflict. Ward Eleven Alderman Normand Gamache, whose daughter is also a teacher, was absent for the first vote, but voted in favor of the contract to override the veto on the second vote.
Gatsas, who has since worked feverishly to find savings in other areas of the budget to offset the contract costs, warned that the deficit would either lead to an override of the tax cap or force the district to leave teaching vacancies unfilled or to lay off teaching staff once the budget impact was felt.
On the Right to Know front, the State Senate passed H B 6 0 6 with an amendment last week. This bill clarifies that no fees may be charged to review or deliver records electronically. If an individual requests a paper copy, or needs a physical device to transfer electronic information, they will only be charged the amount for the materials to produce that copy. The report was presented by District Fourteen Sen. Sharon Carson, Republican from Londonderry and Vice Chair of the Senate Executive Departments and Administration Committee. The bill will return to the House where it may be passed with the amendment or sent to a conference committee for further review.
The senate also passed H B 285 which will enable public bodies to hold non-meetings to discuss legal advice regardless of whether or not the lawyer is present for the discussion, which is currently required.
Tomorrow, the House Judiciary Committee will hear H B 14 13 regarding the formation of a commission to study Right to Know complaints and the current process for resolving those complaints. The hearing is scheduled at three in room two oh eight of the Legislative Office Building directly behind the State House. Right to Know New Hampshire supports the bill and is encouraging members of the public who believe the Right to Know process in New Hampshire could be improved to attend. Those who cannot attend but wish to express their opinions may contact the committee at House Judiciary Committee at leg dot state dot n h dot u s.
News from our own backyard continues after this.
Efforts to pare back the school budget in Hooksett suffered a setback during the final meeting of the Budget Committee last week. Earlier in the process, the committee reduced a nearly two million dollar increase in proposed spending by one million dollars. That brought the predictable howls of protest from the education establishment, of course. Though there was still a one vote majority in favor of reducing the increase in spending after the sudden resignations of Budget Committee Chairman Patrick Gosselin and committee member Tabitha Jennings, committee member Chris Morneau apparently succumbed to the pressure, changing his vote on a number of items that gave those opposed to the cuts a five to four majority to reinstate more than five hundred forty one thousand dollars. Some think it will satisfy the spend more money crowd and persuade them not to push for even higher spending at the deliberative session. Others aren’t so sure. We’ll see.
Hooksett’s historic Robie’s Country Store will reopen on Primary Election Day, February 9th, thanks to its new operators Joshua and Amber Enright. Robie’s store is now in its one hundred and twenty-ninth year and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. “The Board is looking forward to the reopening. We are anxious to have community life return to this community place,” said Robert Schroeder, President of the Robie’s preservation group. The store will serve breakfast, lunch and great coffee and will make local produce and other goods a priority as they continue their commitment to New Hampshire made products. Robie’s will also have “featured items” and a complete line of groceries with a home-delivery option.
New Hampshire Senate President Chuck Morse, Republican from Salem, requested detailed information on the more than eighty million dollars in department lapses from Fiscal 2015 on Friday after reviewing the state’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report. According to Morse, all legislative priorities, including heroin and opioid abuse prevention and the establishment of drug courts, will be put on hold until the senate has a better understanding of the state’s financial situation. In a statement, Morse also noted they were awaiting word on how much money was saved as a result of the continuing resolution that was in place following Governor Margaret Wood Hassan’s budget veto last June. Those savings were slated to fund pay raises granted to state employees.
That’s news from our own backyard, Girard at Large hour ___ is next