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May 19. 2013 10:13PM

Nashua set to begin budget review

NASHUA — Budget season will be in full swing this week as an aldermanic committee is scheduled to meet three times to review the mayor’s proposed 2014 budget with a fine-tooth comb.

Aldermen began their initial inspection of Mayor Donnalee Lozeau’s proposed operating budget of $236 million last week, and will pick up where they left off at tonight’s aldermanic Budget Review Committee meeting.

The committee will debate several sections of the city’s fiscal year 2014 budget, including the police department budget and community development budget.

The recommended police budget of $25,575,724 includes employee benefits and fuel. Last year’s police budget of $17,670,299 did not include benefits or fuel, which accounts for a combined $7.3 million.

Proposed wages in the police budget include a raise for Police Chief John Seusing from $124,317 to $129,312. The two deputy police chief combined salaries are suggested to increase from $225,309 to $234,360, while proposed salary increases for seven police captains are set to increase from a combined $706,279 to $734,650.

The patrolmen budget is suggested to increase from $8.1 million for 134 full-time officers to about $8.3 million for 136 full-time officers.

Other budgets that will be reviewed tonight include parking lots, community development, planning and zoning, building inspection, code enforcement, urban programs and law enforcement training.

Lozeau unveiled her proposed 2014 budget to the Board of Aldermen last week, which represents an increase of 2.3 percent from the existing budget.

Her proposed operating budget of $236,048,064 is about $5.3 million more than the existing budget of about $230 million.

Lozeau said that more than half of the 2.3 percent increase is attributed to a hike in New Hampshire Retirement System pension costs of about $3.7 million.

At least two aldermen have already voiced concerns about potential wage increases in the spending plan.

The salaries, in general, for non-union city employees are up about 3 percent, Alderman Dan Moriarty said last week, claiming the director of Health and Community Services will see a raise of more than 10 percent over a three year period if the figures are approved.

“I see raises that greatly exceed what other employees are getting,” said Moriarty.

Alderman James Donchess agreed.

“How can we proceed with this kind of example?” asked Donchess, saying teachers are receiving incredibly low salary increases compared to several city department heads. He maintained that the city’s community development director, economic development director and public works director are each getting pay raises of nearly 9 percent over a three year period if authorized.

Alderman Brian McCarthy, board president, warned that Donchess may not be looking at the step levels correctly when calculating the increases, stressing individual salaries must be taken into consideration rather than solely the step table.

If approved by city officials, the overall $236 million operating budget would result in a less than 3 percent tax increase for local residents, said Lozeau. Last year’s tax increase was nearly 2.5 percent, she added.

According to John Griffin, Chief Financial Officer, about 75 percent of the city’s operating budget — or $177 million — accounts for employee salaries and benefits.

Following tonight’s meeting, two other Budget Review Committee meetings are planned this week, including one on Tuesday and one on Thursday. The budget meetings will continue the following week on May 29 and May 30.

Tuesday’s meeting will focus on the public library and school department budgets.

The largest department in the general fund is the school department, with a proposed budget of $129 million, which includes benefits.

On Thursday, the committee will study the information technology budget and public health and community services budget, in addition to the fire department’s proposed budget of $20,598,539, which includes benefits and fuel. Last year’s fire department budget of $14,137,543 did not include benefits or fuel.

There are several suggested wage increases within the fire department, including a salary hike from $116,520 to $121,226 for Fire Chief Brian Morrissey. Assistant Fire Chief Steven Galipeau is set for a raise from $103,308 to $105,684, while the four deputy fire chiefs have a combined salary increase from $353,273 to $363,663.

All of this week’s budget meetings begin at 7 p.m. at Nashua City Hall, and are open to the public.

khoughton@newstote.com


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