NASHUA — Only a handful of residents spoke during Tuesday's public hearing on the city's proposed $230 million budget, which could increase property taxes by up to 3 percent.
“I think it is important that the citizens of Nashua understand as soon as possible what their tax bills will be,” said Robert Sullivan of 12 Stonybrook Road, one of just a few citizens to comment on Mayor Donnalee Lozeau's recommended 2013 budget of $230,607,330.
Lozeau said the budget as presented should result in a tax rate increase of under 3 percent.
Sullivan pressed the mayor on a more accurate prediction, asking whether the increase would be closer to 2.8 or 2.9 percent, and noted that in the past two years, tax increases have been nearly 3 percent annually.
Over a three-year period, Nashua homeowners could be facing almost a 10 percent hike in their property taxes if the proposed budget is adopted, Sullivan said, asking whether any additional services are now offered.
Lozeau explained that the city has had a significant loss of state revenue in recent years, but that it continues to be “on solid financial footing.”
Lozeau said Nashua is not facing mass layoffs such as the one in Manchester, where the school board has approved laying off 161 full-time staffers.
She said it is important to predict the worst-case scenario when estimating tax increases. Sullivan argued that residents deserve to be provided with a probable tax rate figure so they can adequately prepare for their upcoming property tax bill.
The 2011 tax rate is $20.97 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, or about $6,291 for a $300,000 home. Although Lozeau did not mention the specific tax rate, if it is 3 percent, homeowners could be facing a new tax rate of about $21.60, or an estimated $190 more for a $300,000 home.
“Every 3 percent hurts,” said Cheryl Arch of Kessler Farms. “It is a hardship.”
In a time when families are on fixed incomes, salaries are declining and taxes are going up, Arch said she is struggling to understand why the city is spending money on “frivolous expenditures” such as pursuing rail studies and land buys.
The mayor's budget of $230,607,330 is up 1.5 percent from the current $227.2 million budget. Her budget is about $554,000 below the city's spending cap.
The largest department budget is the school district, which is recommended at $95.6 million. Other significant budgets include the police department at $17.7 million, and the fire department at $14.1 million.
Stacie Laughton, selectman for Ward 4, urged the Board of Aldermen to make sure there is sufficient funding for the police department budget. Because of a recent shortfall in the police budget, two school resource officers were temporarily pulled from the schools earlier this year.
“We should not let that happen again,” she told aldermen.
Tonight, the aldermanic Budget Review Committee will again study the proposed budget in light of public comments made Tuesday. Following its recommendation, the full Board of Aldermen will have the opportunity to adjust the budget before final approval.