The Committee on Administration and Information Systems of the Manchester Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved a proposal by Elderly Services Director Gail Senno to charge non-resident senior citizens to use Manchester’s Senior Center. If approved by the board, the twenty five dollar per person, forty five dollar per couple annual fee would go into effect on July first. Senno said the proposal was in response to the large number of non-residents using the center on the dime of Manchester’s taxpayers and said the practice of most communities was to charge non-residents. She said fees would be use to support programming at the center and also said that if a senior could absolutely not afford the fee, it would be waived.
The Board of Mayor and Aldermen held a public hearing on a request to rezone a building off of Second Street from residential to general business use. The people requesting this change would like to turn the building into a night club. Several residents who live close by spoke against it specifically referencing the last time the building was a nightclub. They weren’t interested in a repeat performance of that horror show. (Remember the Industry Night Club? Oh My HEAD!) Neighbor Carl Hebert said he lives directly behind the property and lived there when it was a club. Hebert pleaded with the board to not approve the zoning change saying another club would cause noise, crime, and have environmental impacts on the nearby pond. He said that with the zoning as it is, a business needs to obtain a variance before it can open, but if the zoning change passed, the board would have no control over what type of business went into the building.
The board approved a request by Ward Nine Alderman Barbara Shaw to spend twenty five thousand dollars to move the traffic gate on Gold Street west toward Blossom Street allow residents of Beech Hill Ave. access to South Willow Street. Shaw said she requested the gate be moved because the residents have asked for it countless times and it does not violate the contract with Walmart. She said that street has always been a cut through from South Beech Street to South Willow and that reopening it would alleviate pressure on President Road, which has seen an influx of cut through traffic since the city erected the gate on Gold Street as per its agreement with Walmart. Only aldermen at-Large Dan O’Neil and Joe Kelly Levasseur were opposed.
The aldermen also sent proposed parking fee hikes back to committee for a rethink.
In a brutal budget battle, the Board of Mayor and Alderman overrode the city’s tax cap and a veto by Mayor Ted Gatsas to hike spending by another three million five hundred eighty four thousand dollars. Despite increasing taxes and spending, the budget presented by board Chairman Patrick Long, Democrat from Ward Three, argued the twenty five cent per thousand drop in the tax rate was a cut in taxes made possible by a projected increase in the city’s tax base of more than a quarter of a billion dollars expected from the city’s ongoing revaluation. Long and others persisted in this argument despite clear statements to the contrary made by Board of Assessors Chairman Bob Gagne, who said the same tax base projections on the mayor’s budget would drop the tax rate by ninety cents.
The budget funds the so called needs budget requested by school Superintendent Debra Livingston, throws another hundred grand into the police department’s operating budget, spends one hundred eighty thousand dollars on new vests and gear for the police department’s SWAT team, drops three hundred large for fire department turnout gear, drops over one hundred forty thousand dollars to add a position to the fire and planning departments and targets one hundred eighty thousand dollars for improvements to Victory Park.
An alternative proposed by Ward Twelve Alderman Keith Hirschmann that would have used projected increases in parking revenues and reallocated existing funds to address most of the city side items proposed by Long didn’t get the time of day.
Surprisingly, only four aldermen opposed the vote to override the tax cap. They were Tony Sapienza from Ward Five, Nick Pappas from Ward Six, Bill Shea from Ward Seven and Hirschmann. Levasseur said he wasn’t voting to override the city’s tax cap, he was voting to override the city’s revenue cap, which, truth be told, are one in the same. Ward Four Alderman Christopher Herbert said the city had been starving for seven years and should spend the revenue while it has it. Shaw said it was a positive override because the revenues were there, not a negative one because they’d have to increase taxes.
In vetoing the override, Mayor Gatsas didn’t mince words as he detailed his concerns for the taxpayers and his interests in holding the school district to the same standards as the city departments who manage their budgets well.
Said Gatsas, quote:
The lesser tax rate you see here this evening is nothing more than smoke and mirrors.
The budget presented this evening spends an additional $5 million over the current fiscal year – this is nearly $3 million more than allowed by the voter approved tax cap and nearly $3 million more in additional spending presented in the Mayor’s budget.
An additional $2.5 million for the school district. In addition to the $1.6 million the Mayor’s budget already appropriated…
You are overriding the tax cap for a school district that provided the membership of this board, and our finance director, false information about savings that would be realized as a result of the teacher contract.
You are overriding the tax cap for a school district that has treated our city department heads with disdain and disrespect. Those same city department heads that found efficiencies in their budgets to give the district more.
There is no will to change. There is no will to put the taxpayers of this city first – it’s obvious.
And there never will be any consideration for the taxpayers by the school district administration because this board does not set a standard that requires that.
Click here for the full text of the mayor’s veto message.
News from our own backyard continues after this
Approximately ninety fifth grade students in Manchester will receive a free bike package today thanks to the Manchester Community Schools Project. The project worked in collaboration with the Q C Bike Collective and Beech Street Elementary School to create an Earn-A-Bike program for elementary school students. If students complete a leadership program known as the Dovetail Learning Toolbox, they receive a refurbished bike, helmet, light and lock. The children need to complete forty-five additional minutes of reading and math per week, participate in a bike safety workshop, participate in Global Youth Service Day, and complete a project that reflects their learning of the twelve leadership principles. The bike packages will be distributed at a Neighborhood Block Party from five to seven tonight at Beech Street Elementary School. Both the Earn-A-Bike Program and the Beechfest Block Party are funded by the Granite United Way and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The event will have family activities including dancing, face painting, games and free dinners for about four hundred residents.