NASHUA — After several wrap-up sessions, the aldermanic Budget Review Committee spent Wednesday night putting the finishing touches on the mayor's proposed 2014 budget, which will soon go forward to the Board of Aldermen for an official vote.
The committee, throughout the past two weeks, has made minor changes to Mayor Donnalee Lozeau's suggested $236 million operating budget for the next fiscal year.
Discussions on Wednesday included a newly proposed position within the city's Wastewater Department to replace a foreman spot that could not be filled. Lozeau is proposing a new plant manager role within the department, an employee she said would help with some of the superintendent's duties.
"It is growing, and the responsibilities there are growing," Lozeau said of the wastewater plant. The city must stay in compliance with numerous regulations, according to the mayor, who said there is too much at stake to not have an adequate number of employees helping to make the plant run smoothly.
Alderman-at-Large David Deane said the Wastewater Department is the most important division in the city, saying the crew would be instrumental if there was some type of catastrophic problem in the Gate City.
Lozeau was unsure whether the new plant manager position has been posted yet.
"I am hoping we have a qualified candidate to take on those responsibilities," she said, adding there is not a lot of new interest in the wastewater field.
Other vacant employee positions within the proposed budget were also reviewed by the committee on Wednesday. At least two motions were made, and ultimately rejected, requesting that a portion of select vacant position salaries be removed from the budget.
Lozeau's proposed operating budget of $236,048,064 is about $5.3 million more than the existing budget of about $230 million, which represents an increase of 2.3 percent.
If approved by city officials, the proposed budget will result in a less than 3 percent tax increase for local residents, according to the mayor. Last year's tax increase was nearly 2.5 percent.
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. The city currently employs more than 2,800 workers.
Multiple meetings have been held to study each aspect of the nearly 260-page spending plan recommended by the mayor. Aldermen have until Aug. 1 to approve the new budget, but Lozeau is hoping it will be adopted before the fiscal year begins.
As of press time, the committee had not yet voted on its final budget recommendation that will be presented to the full Board of Aldermen for official approval.
However, Alderman Brian McCarthy, chairman of the committee and president of the Board of Aldermen, said he was hoping to have the budget panel finish its amendments on the budget Wednesday night.
"That would be nice," McCarthy said about an hour into the meeting.
At one point, Alderman Lori Wilshire attempted to have the budget adopted, but Deane said he still had additional questions he wanted addressed.
The largest department in the general fund is the school department, with a proposed budget of $129 million, which includes benefits. The proposed police department budget is about $25.5 million, the fire department budget is recommended at about $20.5 million and the Public Works budget is about $11.3 million, all of which include benefits.
According to the proposal, the mayor's salary — if approved — would increase from $107,555 to $110,029. A $5,000 stipend for each of the 15 aldermen — at a total of $75,000 — is also included in the budget proposal.