Editor's note: Gate City Musings, a column on City Hall happenings and other Nashua items, is published every other Monday. It is written by a veteran political observer whose identity is known to the editors but who wishes to remain anonymous, and breathing.
The current city administration never ceases to amaze us. Remember what Johnny Most, the legendary Boston Celtics radio broadcaster, used to say after each Celtics world championship win: "I can't believe it! I can't believe it!" Well, neither can Musings!
The Board of Aldermen will now have a chance to examine the mayor's 2014 city budget and let's hope they will do their due diligence with the proposed $251 million dollar monstrosity, which is the largest budget in the city's history.
No matter which way "Mayor Taxes" chooses to slice it, over the first six years of her administration city spending, if her 2014 budget passes, will have increased more than 13 percent. Put another way, it means a hike of $29 million out of your pocket.
In her comments to the Board of Aldermen, Madam Mayor she said that she felt her budget "strikes the right balance." If she meant it strikes at the heart of each taxpayer, she is right. If she really feels her 2014 budget is reasonable, she has to get her head out of the sand.
She added, "Rather than talk about cutting spending, people need to talk about investing." What she really meant is that all of us should focus on giving city government more funds to make our city that much better. If increased spending will really make our city more attuned to those who pay taxes, me thinks she's barking up the wrong tree.
Perhaps we should focus on the mayor's office budget, which has risen more than 90 percent during her first six years. Did the city really need the additional employees at high salaries along with expensive new rugs, furniture, desks and draperies. Well, don't ask the mayor to explain the extraordinarily high increase in her office budget for she has already refused to provide the rationale and figures.
Let's take a look at the Board of Education's budget. Can you imagine putting together a household budget and then padding it by 20 percent so that after each year you would have a phony surplus? Well, folks, that's what our illustrious Board of Education and our mayor and Board of Aldermen do each year to make themselves look good at your expense.
For the last few budget sessions and probably a lot more, planned "budget surplus funds" are used to balance the upcoming proposed city budgets.
One wonders why our supposed fiscally conservative and knowledgeable elected officials pass what they refer to as "tight" budgets knowing full well they won't spend it all.
And lo and behold when the next budget rolls around our city and schools officials have a host of unspent funds they can use to tell the taxpaying public they are in essence using "found" dollars that they didn't need to spend and frankly they didn't need them in the first place.
Talk about creative financing.
After what seems like over a hundred years, our school board, with support of the school superintendent, is now proposing salary scales for school administrators. Great idea folks! You might want to look at some of our neighboring cities to find that this type of compensation is already being used.
Just a suggestion: Why not tie increased salaries for school administrators, and teachers for that matter, based on merit rather than longevity? It's no secret that a plan like this makes it easier for school boards to approve meaningful pay increases, thus rewarding those highest-performing educators by allowing them to move up the pay scale faster.
Getting to commuter rail again, now we hear the city is looking to purchase 25 Crown St. for several million dollars and build a parking lot for high-speed rail. It is interesting this effort is being made without any assurance that New Hampshire, Washington or Nashua will kick in any more funds to this project.
More kudos to Alderman Dan Moriarty for his efforts to put together an hoc committee to study the long-term financial impact this project would have on our city.
He noted that as a Republican, his party in general is opposed to commuter rail, primarily because of the subsidies it requires. He is correct in saying that commuter rail is perceived as being a burden on the taxpayers.
Remember ... if you have a subject, complaint or praise about what our city officials are up to or you have a suggestion for "kudos," email them to email@example.com. Musings would love to hear from you.