NASHUA — A surplus of $6.5 million to $7 million is anticipated in the city’s 2012 budget, a portion of which could be used to offset property taxes.
Mayor Donnalee Lozeau told aldermen this week that she is estimating close to $5 million in unexpended appropriations from last year’s budget — in addition to an increase of $1.5 to $2 million in revenues.
“But then again, we are not done yet,” Lozeau told the aldermanic Budget Review Committee on Tuesday. “I don’t want to set expectations where they don’t belong.”
Still, aldermen continued to question the mayor on the final tally of the city’s 2012 budget, which concluded at the end of June.
Lozeau told the board that she anticipates using $4 million of the surplus to offset the tax rate, but that she will know the exact amount once the books are closed, either at the end of this month or by mid-September.
She is requesting that nearly $2.4 million in escrow be used for various projects and capital improvements in the new budget cycle, which includes about $1.56 million in escrow requests already approved by city administration, and a remaining $793,000 in escrow requests to be reviewed by the Board of Aldermen.
Any surplus money remaining will likely be placed in the city’s undesignated fund balance, said Lozeau.
If the numbers are as anticipated, Lozeau said she predicts the tax rate will likely be about 2.5 to 2.7 percent higher than last year.
“I know it will be well under three (percent),” she said.
The good news, she said, is that for the first time in recent years, the city’s revenues are higher than projected, mostly because of an increase in motor-vehicle registrations.
“I have some reservations about this,” said Alderman-at-Large James Donchess, referring to the nearly $2.4 million in escrow requests. “This is almost like a new budget — a supplemental budget.”
By approving the escrow requests, the board is essentially voting on what the tax rate is going to be, said Donchess. He argued that more attention should be given to the various requests, which include $75,000 for a downtown roadway circulation study, $70,000 for ongoing rail trail land purchases and a $211,000 contribution to the Nashua Airport for its new runway.
If the list of escrow requests was denied, Donchess said the tax rate increase would be closer to 1.25 to 1.45 percent instead of 2.5 to 2.7 percent. He made several motions to remove some of the requests, but those suggestions were denied by the committee.
The full Board of Aldermen will consider about 45 escrow requests. In the meantime, Alderman at-Large David Deane said he is anxious to review budget transfers made in June, at the end of the fiscal year.
Lozeau said the transfer list is not yet available, but should be soon.
“It is ridiculous,” Deane said of the delay. “It is frustrating to deal with all of the time.”
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Kimberly Houghton may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.