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Manchester charter commission proposals include mayor's salary hike, no benefits for aldermen, school board

New Hampshire Union Leader

April 26. 2013 12:27AM

MANCHESTER - The Charter Commission has finalized a list of proposals for the November ballot that includes raising the mayor's salary to $100,000 and eliminating the health care benefits for aldermen and school board members.

The slate is also notable for the absence of items concerning the school system or the tax cap, which had been the subject of considerable debate.

Commission Chairman Jerome Duval said it was important for there to be consensus on the proposed changes to the charter, which is the city's basic governing document.

"We're all elected by the same voters," he said. "We had a thorough exchange of dialogue on these measures. The nine members of the commission, when it comes to specifics, we may not all agree, but there is nearly unanimous backing for these changes."

Not all members of the commission, however, were pleased with the way the process concluded. Commissioner Rich Girard, along with Commissioners Will Infantine and Nick Pappas, have sent a letter of protest to city officials, arguing that no final vote was taken to approve the "preliminary report" at the meeting on Wednesday. Girard said a motion for "unanimous consent" for the proposed changes, which passed 6-3, preempted any discussion or vote on the final report.

"In effect, we believe that no revisions, under the law, were adopted. Moreover, the deadline for them to be adopted and reported having passed, we do not believe their adoption and reporting is possible," Girard states in the letter. Under the state charter commission statute, RSA 49-B:4, the preliminary report must be prepared within 170 days after the election of the commission.

That deadline was Wednesday.

Duval maintained that the actions of the commission were proper and that the document would now go to the Secretary of State's Office, Attorney General's Office and Department of Revenue Administration to make sure there is no conflict with state law.

In addition to raising the mayor's salary to $100,000 (from $68,000), the commission has proposed raising stipends for aldermen to $9,000 (from $5,000), and school board members to $7,000 (from $2,000), while eliminating health and dental coverage.

Another proposal would make the welfare commissioner an appointed rather than an elected position. As it stands, the commissioner is the only elected official that receives the same raises and benefits as a department head.

The other proposals:

-- Fining elected officials who do not file financial disclosure reports; $100 for the first day, $10 for each additional day.

-- Extending the requirement to disclose conflicts of interest to members of boards, commissions and authorities.

-- Requiring that the budget approval process be completed by the second Tuesday in June (instead of June 30).

-- Requiring that a candidate for elective office be a resident of the city for at least one year.

-- Increasing the number of election postings from three to eight, 30 days before both a primary and general municipal election.

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