Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas unveiled his budget plan for the city last night and it seems noteworthy that it didn’t stir any major controversies, at least not yet. In a move that’s bound to raise some eyebrows, Gatsas took all new tax revenues allowed to be raised under the city’s budget cap and provided it to the city’s schools; that, and more, as Gatsas put it. Despite that, the Gatsas budget proposal is about three point seven million dollars short of the budget ordered to public hearing by the Board of School Committee. Ward Three Committeeman Christopher Stewart told Girard at Large last night that the district had to get a handle on health care costs if it ever hoped to fund anything else.
On the city side, the mayor less than level funded city operations. With department’s projecting about one point one million dollars more in revenues, Gatsas flat funded every city department and used the revenues to offset large increases in things like state and city retirement funding. In a novel move, Gatsas proposed using half the projected one million dollar surplus, as required by city ordinance, to prop up the city’s Rainy Day Fund and use the other half as a revenue to offset the tax rate. In another novel move, he also wants to take a projected one point five million dollar surplus in the city’s health insurance line item and, once again per the ordinances, rescue the Health Insurance Reserve trust fund. Gatsas cited negative comments from the bond rating agencies about both reserves as the reason why it needs to be done now.
In level funding the departments, Gatsas said the departments should be able to carry forward with operations as they are now given that there are no salary increases due any city employees. All union employee contracts expire at the end of this fiscal year. As a result, until and unless there is a new contract that awards them, there will be no annual step increases, nor will there be any longevity or cost of living increases.
Echoing a proposal he floated several weeks ago, Gatsas proposed a Road Maintenance Account that would provide eighteen million dollars in funding over the next five years. Gatsas would front load the project, bonding six million dollars this year and three million in each of the subsequent four years. Coupled with two million dollars already waiting to be spent, Gatsas said his plan would provide eight million dollars in roadwork over the next fourteen months. He also asked the board to consider meeting as a Committee of the Whole to discuss and develop the plan that will allocate the funds rather than have the work done in committee. He envisioned special meetings of the board just for this topic, which, he said, would get every aldermen’s direct input and provide the public with the most up to date information as the city puts the recent data it collected on its infrastructure to work.
In an interview with Girard at Large Ward Three Alderman Patrick Long, overall, said he was pleased with the mayor’s proposal and that he touched on all the areas he thought he needed to. Ward One Alderman and mayoral candidate Joyce Craig declined to comment saying she wanted to hear from department heads on the impact level funding their departments would have. Let the games begin. We’ve posted the complete text of the mayor’s Budget Address and the press release with the highlights and summary of budget changes to Girard at Large dot com and linked to both from this news read.
News from our own backyard continues after this.
Senate Bill One oh One made its way to the House Education Committee yesterday and that stirred a whole lot of flack. That’s the bill proposed by District Twelve State Senator Kevin Avard, Republican from Nashua, that would prevent the State Board of Education from mandating that local school districts adopt the Common Core. We have to admit, we were skeptical of the bill’s impact given that the Board of Ed in adopting the standards technically could not require they be used. Then we heard the latest and greatest draft of the latest and greatest No Child Left Behind Waiver being prepared by the State Department of Education requires local school districts to use the Common Core Next Generation Science Standards and suddenly, the point of this legislation became clear.
In any event, during the committee discussion of the bill, State Representative Mel Myler, Democrat from Hopkington, went on this bizarre rant condemning his own uninformed, uneducated constituents who keep misrepresenting what the common core is and what the Smarter Balanced Assessment is. He said he was sick of their full of misleading emails and said they just don’t like the answers they’re given. Myler, by the way, served as the Executive Director of N E A New Hampshire for twenty one years, meaning he’s a big union educrat who knows better about how to educate your kids than you do and, oh, by the way, he can completely ignore the evidence of what’s happening in classrooms as a result of bureaucratic actions when it simply doesn’t conform to the political talking points that come with his point of view. Very talented guy.
Anyway, the bill passed committee on a straight party line vote, except that Bedford Republican Rep. and School Board Chair Terry Wolf voted with the Democrats to oppose this needed local control bill, just like she sabotaged efforts to give parents the right to opt their children into non-academic surveys and assessments. She seems to have a knack of voting “state knows best” policies.
That’s news from our own backyard, Girard at Large hour ___ is next!