A public hearing on Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas’ proposed budget for the 2 0 1 8 fiscal year was held at City Hall last night. Almost nobody seemed to care, except a handful of speakers from what we’ve affectionately named the “More Money Crowd.”
Ward Two resident Jim O’Connell, who doubles as President of Citizens for Manchester Schools tried to shame the board into increasing school spending. New Hampshire, he said, as a state, spends less money on education than any other in the nation and Manchester spends less than any other community in the state. He called it a disgrace, saying it was depriving the city’s school kids and leading to poor perceptions of the city around the state. Noting he was a frequent flier in the chambers, he asked the board not to discount what he was saying because he was a familiar face with a repetitive message.
Ward Four resident Nick Want, who is also School Board Member Leslie Want’s husband, said he’s seen the damage underfunding schools has caused the city first hand. As a landlord with properties around the city, Want claimed he’s lost good tenants when their kids become school aged because of the schools’ reputation, a reputation, he says has also prevented tenants who loved his apartments from moving in after once they research the schools, causing them to move to surrounding towns. He said schools should be considered infrastructure and that were crumbling as any infrastructure would without out sufficient funding. He said the proposed budget was meeting a statutory requirement that limited taxes, not providing an adequate education.
A woman from Ward Two, whose name I didn’t catch, said that while she didn’t and won’t have kids, she wanted to see more spending on schools. She works in business to business sales and said that there is a shortage of people for the high tech jobs in the city, which she said has caused a big increase in companies shooting recruitment videos to bring people to work here. But, she questioned why a world class business would locate to the city if it disrespected and didn’t value education because it wouldn’t provide adequate funding.
Jim Townsend, whom I believe said he was from Ward One, took a shot at Mayor Gatsas, telling him he shouldn’t be proud of the budget he proposed, apparently unaware that the mayor, by law, must propose a budget that conformed to the tax cap. He trotted out the old bumper sticker, his words, not mine, saying that went “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” A former teacher, he urged the board to up spending on schools.
The performance of the night went to former Ward One Alderman and mayoral candidate Joyce Craig, who seemed to kick off her all but announced bid for mayor with a speech that was an all out assault on Gatsas. She opened her speech with a shot his way saying his Budget Address covered what was funded in the budget, but didn’t cover what wasn’t. We must’ve seen two different speeches. Anyway, she accused Gatsas of raising taxes while cutting services, charged his failure to separately fund severance for retirees would cost more money over time, lead to layoffs in smaller departments and create vacancies in larger departments, causing overtime to increase. She complained the budget didn’t fund the Southern New Hampshire Regional Planning Commission and came up with some interesting, if not inventive, numbers on the loss of tuition revenue in the coming budget, which she blamed on Gatsas. She also said he’d dangerously underfunded health insurance.
As if all that wasn’t enough, she accused Gatsas of passing off basic road maintenance as an exciting economic development project and asked the aldermen not to commit the one point five million dollars he earmarked for the overhaul of Elm Street from Webster St. to Queen City Ave. She trotted out a recently published story on the city of Concord and the rebirth of its downtown as an example of a community on the move and the way things should be done, urging the aldermen to see how the Elm St. project could be done differently.
What Craig didn’t say is how she would have complied with the charter’s requirement that the mayor propose a budget within the tax cap, a requirement she is well aware of. But then again…
Also last night was the Merrimack School District’s Deliberative Session. According to our sources, there were about twenty people in attendance for the session, which took thirteen minutes to discuss the proposed seventy four million dollar budget. Wow.
News from our own backyard continues after this.
Governor Chris Sununu has accepted the resignation of Attorney General Joseph Foster. Foster’s term of office expires at the end of the month. The chances that Foster was going to be reappointed by Sununu were slim to none at best. Sununu has said he’s reviewing a handful of candidates to replace Foster.
Sununu also nominated two people to the State Board of Education. Ann Lane of Durham was named to succeed Emma Rous, also of Durham, whose term expired on January thirty first. Kate Cassady of Littleton was named to succeed Gregory Odell of Dalton, whose term also expired on January thrity first. Sununu has yet to name a replacement for Board Chair Tom Raffio, who has been in holdover status since January thirty first of last year and just desperately needs to be removed from the board. Hey! Hey! Ho! Ho! Thomas Ra-fee-O has got to go!
It was also a very busy day in the House for legislation. The Croydon Bill passed, as did several bills relative to the state’s election system. We’ll try to get to it all during today’s show.
That’s NEWS from our own backyard! Girard at Large hour ___ is next!