Well, in what can only be described as an anti climatic event, the Manchester Board of Mayor and Aldermen last night adopted a budget, the result of which will be an increase in Queen City taxes of four percent, almost double what was allowed under the city’s budget caps. The aldermen did politely receive a budget presentation from Ward Twelve Alderman Keith Hirschmann and Alderman at-Large Joe Kelly Levasseur before overriding the cap. Hirschmann’s budget took advantage of new revenue projections, and some he kinda made up on his own, as well as growth in the tax base to boost spending. It also eliminated funded, but vacant positions in smaller departments, exacted roughly a one half percent cut in others and reduced the school budget by seven hundred fifty thousand dollars. With the revenues and cuts, he fully funded the requests for the police, fire and public works departments and added funding for severance, health care and contingency while remaining within the caps, though it would have required an override of the cap provision that prohibits the use of added tax base valuation and the revenue it generates in the budget. It failed on a vote of twelve to two, with only its authors voting for it.
After Hirschmann’s budget went down in flames, Ward One Alderman Joyce Craig and Ward Three Alderman Patrick Long took to the witness table in the chambers to offer a PowerPoint presentation on the dire consequences of not overriding the cap. At one point, things appeared so desperate, I half expected Bill Murray’s character from the movie Ghost Busters to jump out of the balcony and exclaim to the mayor, as he did in the movie, that dogs and cats will be living together and that there’ll be mass hysteria if their budget proposal didn’t pass. Like Hirschmann, they funded, in full, though to a slightly lesser extent, the requests of the big three, police, fire and highway. As with the budget proposed last week by aldermen Bill Shea of Ward Seven, Jim Roy of Ward Four and Tom Katsiantonis of Ward Eight, they jacked spending for the health care, contingency and severance and they tapped economic development funds from the so called one time account to buy six hundred more recycling toters, ‘cuz the city, somehow, just couldn’t do without more recycling toters. When pressed by Hirschmann about why if she was going to bust the cap she didn’t fully fund the projected need in the health insurance line, she said she heard loud and clear from last week’s budget discussions that the tax hike had to be under four percent.
Following their presentation, Mayor Ted Gatsas gaveled the meeting to a twenty minute recess to confer with Finance Officer Bill Sanders and City Solicitor Tom Clark in his office. After reconvening the meeting, a moment of High Drama took place when Alderman Shea asked for a recess so he and the co-authors of the budget he proposed could confer in the back room with Craig and Long to work out a deal for their votes, which they did. After adding ten grand to the almost six hundred thousand dollar budget for the Office of Youth Services, five grand to the Planning Department’s almost two million dollar budget and shifting three hundred thousand dollars from health care to contingency, the deal was done.
Gatsas did exercise the line item veto on changes to the proposed C I P budget. Craig moved to shift almost seven hundred thousand dollars in bonded funds earmarked to address repair and maintenance needs at the City Hall Complex, which has been largely untouched since renovations were completed in nineteen ninety eight, to road repairs and reconstruction. Gatsas said the city had provided new police and fire stations and new highway department buildings, but neglected the one building that is used by everybody. In moving to override the veto, Alderman at-Large Dan O’Neil said a poll of city residents would likely favor improved roads over new carpets at City Hall. Only Roy and Hirschmann supported the override.
Clearly stung by proposing to override the cap, Craig said business at usual at City Hall had to come to an end, noting they can’t come back to the taxpayers next year and ask for another override (Might have something to do with it being an election year, who knows.). She said the aldermen were put in the position where they had no choice but to override the tax cap and said the “we need to make significant changes to health insurance, workers’ compensation and to Yarger-Decker.” How ’bout that? Gatsas echoed calls for change he made on this show yesterday, pointing to an unnamed department hiring a supervisor for two or three people as an example of the overhaul city government needed. When Ward Nine Alderman Barbara Shaw agreed with his eloquently stated position, here words, not mine, he said he’d remember that and expect her support when he comes forward with changes. Funny, but it seems that we’ve heard this all before.
We’ve linked to our Live Blog Forum of the meeting, which chronicled how it went down in real time. It’s a fun read, we recommend.
News from our own backyard continues after this.
The Greater Derry Londonderry Chamber of Commerce has announced the resignation of Executive Director Stacey Bruzzese. Bruzzese, who’s been with the chamber since September of two thousand twelve is on to an opportunity she couldn’t pass up with the Greater Haverhill Chamber. The Greater Derry Londonderry Chamber was resurgent under Bruzzese’s leadership, expanding its membership, activities and offerings dramatically. A search is underway to fill the position. Interested parties should email their resumes to resumes @ g d l chamber dot org. Bruzzese begins her new job on Monday, July Third, which means she won’t be available for her monthly appearance on this show, which is too bad for us, because she will be missed.
That’s just SOME of the news from our own backyard, Girard at large hour ___ is next