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June 06. 2013 11:50PM

A city budget: Hard work that paid off

Manchester has a pretty good city budget for next year, thanks primarily to the work of Aldermen Joyce Craig (Ward 1) and Pat Long (Ward 3) and Mayor Ted Gatsas. It stays within the spending cap while dedicating an extra $1 million to city schools — a welcome if problematic move.

Mayor Gatsas introduced his budget early this year in the hope that aldermen would pass it well before the end of the fiscal year (June 30). Aldermen opted to hold out until very near the end. They wanted to see if more revenue would materialize. It did, and they used it.

That is OK. Gatsas himself said that if he'd had more money to work with back in January, he would have dedicated more to employee severance pay and the city contingency fund, both of which got more money ($1.56 million in total) under the Craig-Long budget.

The $1 million in extra funds to the school district is welcome in the sense that the schools really could use those funds to ease classroom crowding. The problem with the allocation is that it was not contingent on any concessions from the Manchester Education Association (MEA).

The city is fortunate that the spring brought in more money than projected. Some aldermen seemed to think that this budget was the low end of what the city could do. In fact, it was the high end. Extra money just was not there. Alderman Garth Corriveau of Ward 6 made a show of voting against the budget, saying it did not go far enough. But it was the only proposal on the table. There were no higher-spending alternatives, including from Corriveau. Not even Alderman Patrick Arnold, who is running against Gatsas this fall, offered an alternative budget plan.

Budgeting takes a lot more work than grandstanding does. Craig and Long took on that challenge and then made the effort to sell Gatsas on their budget before the vote. It was an act of bipartisan diplomacy not often seen in City Hall. And it had the desired result. "All in all, I applaud them, they did a lot of work," Gatsas told us. They did. And the city is better off for it.


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