In what has become an annual occasion for political shock and awe, Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas delivered his budget address last night. In short, Gatsas delivered a budget that took steps to increase municipal reserves, fully fund public safety, continue efforts to improve the city’s infrastructure and fully fund the spending increase allowed the schools under the city’s Tax Cap.
Funding the school district’s allowed increase under the cap was no easy feat as Gatsas first had to offset decreases in state aid and tuition revenue before increasing what could actually be spent. Gatsas had to allocate all of the two million in additional tax revenue the city may raise under the cap plus another one point one million, shifting a total of three point one two four million dollars to schools. Gatsas said city budget spending had to be cut by that one point one million dollars.
Gatsas called on Superintendent Debra Livingston and other district leaders to make changes and took aim at the Manchester Education Association contract approved over his veto when Ward Two Alderman Ron Ludwig, Ward Nine Alderman Barbara Shaw and Ward Eleven Alderman Normand Gamache violated the city charter’s conflict of interest prohibitions to vote on it.
Said Gatsas, quote:
That contract was passed with an understanding that the savings it achieved would allow them to operate and succeed within the voter approved tax cap. Those statements were made, and understood, by this board. At the time, I did not agree with them but there were ten votes and we moved forward…It is now the responsibility of our Superintendent, and the district leadership, to come forward with a solution to this board; (a) solution that does not pit school board members, teachers and parents against the fourteen members of the Board of Aldermen, or the Mayor. It is not constructive, it is unnecessary and I think we can all agree that it’s not in the best interest of our students.
Underscoring the state’s continual down-shifting of expenses to cities, towns and school districts, Gatsas reminded the audience that, by law, state educational adequacy stabilization aide is dropping by four percent per year. He called on district administrators to plan for that for future budgets, which they failed to do this year and said if the state weren’t down-shifting costs, the tenor of the budget discussions would be very different.
Other highlights from the mayor’s address include:
- The continued funding of the newly created Annual Road Replacement Fund with the planned three million allocation.
- The installation of a new, fully integrated permitting, licensing and billing system called Track-It, which will automate and bring on-line the city’s permitting functions.
- The full funding of the police department’s authorized compliment of two hundred thirty seven officers and the installation of a new records management system.
- The creation of a Winter Weather Reserve Account using four hundred thousand dollars from this year’s winter weather operations surplus. The reserve account will be funded in future years using surplus from winter weather operations and may only be used for winter weather operations.
Gatsas concluded his remarks saying, it was no accident that Manchester has persevered through it’s many challenges because quote:
…as in everything we do, we are determined, despite the continual and never-ending downshifts from Concord. We are respectful of the taxpayers and we remain good-stewards of their dollars through sound fiscal management and an enormous amount of hometown pride.”
We have published the full text of Gatsas’ budget address and all the supporting documents at Girard at Large dot com and linked to them from this news read.
News from our own backyard continues after this.
The Manchester Board of School Committee’s Committee on Curriculum and Instruction gave preliminary approval to a ten thousand dollar grant from the Manchester Rotary Club to develop a curriculum that would integrate discussions on drug abuse, specifically heroin and opioid abuse, into the current curriculum for grades six through twelve. Assistant Superintendent David Ryan explained the idea saying quote:
“When we work with Edgar Allen Poe, he had an addictive behavior and we would ask the teacher to talk about that addiction. When a science teacher talks about the brain they could talk about how Narcan can be used to reverse the opioid effects. For math, students could look at the statistics in our city.”
Rotary Club President Mark Burns and aldermen Daniel O’Neil and Patrick Long spoke in favor of the grant. Burns said the club recently lost a member to the epidemic and said he believed the approach could be followed statewide, suggesting the Rotary would be willing to further assist the educational efforts.
The Manchester School of Technology’s cosmetology program is now fully licensed with the state Board of Cosmetology. This means that students can enroll in their sophomore year and be able to take the state licensing test upon successful completion of the program and graduation from the school. That’ll save those students a lot of time and money. Our congrats to the program. They’ve worked hard for that licensing.
The Hillside Parent Teacher Group would like to invite the public to its annual auction this Friday night at Fratellos in Manchester. The event starts at seven and tickets are available at the door. There will be dueling pianos and silent auctions. If you have questions or would like to contribute to the event in any way, please contact Jim O’Connell at 6 1 7 – 8 5 1 – 0 4 2 8 or [email protected]
First District Congressman Frank Guinta, Republican from Manchester, announced the annual Congressional Art Competition, a nationwide high school art contest that the U. S. House of Representatives has sponsored each spring since 1 9 8 2. The competition is open to all high school students. Southwest Airlines will fly winning artists to Washington for a national reception in June. The winning artist’s work will hang in the Capitol for a year. First District teachers must drop off student submissions at Guinta’s office in Manchester before close of business on Friday, April 22nd. For more information call Guinta’s office at 6 4 1 9 5 3 6. We’ve linked to the competition rules from this news read for your convenience.
That’s news from our own backyard! Girard at Large hour ___ is next.