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June 24. 2013 8:32PM

Nashua aldermen to vote on 2014 budget

NASHUA — The Board of Aldermen is expected to adopt its new 2014 fiscal budget tonight, just days before the new fiscal year begins.

“I imagine there may be some motions to amend it slightly, but I think the budget will pass at the end of the day,” Alderman Brian McCarthy, board president, said on Monday.

The aldermanic Budget Review Committee placed the finishing touches on the mayor’s proposed spending plan earlier this month, although the full Board of Aldermen will have its final debate on the $236 million operating budget tonight.

The committee is recommending its budget of $236,009,508, a decrease of $38,556 from the mayor’s proposal of $236,048,064. Three aldermen — Mark Cookson, David Deane and James Donchess — voted in opposition to the spending plan.

“It is possible that some last-minute changes will be made on Tuesday,” McCarthy said. “I would hate to see a whole new round of changes come up. Traditionally, most changes happen at the committee level, which is generally good form.”

The proposed operating budget 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. Last year’s tax increase was nearly 2.5 percent.

While it is good to get the new budget approved before the fiscal year begins on July 1, McCarthy said aldermen actually have until August to adopt the final spending plan, according to the city charter.

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 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.

Multiple meetings have been held to study each aspect of the nearly 260-page spending plan. According to city officials, about 75 percent of the city’s operating budget — or $177 million — accounts for employee salaries and benefits for about 2,800 workers.

During a public hearing on the budget earlier this month, Mayor Donnalee Lozeau stressed that the city has lost double-digit percentages in state and local revenues in recent years, in addition to a significant loss in state retirement contributions.

“Our employees have given us double the contribution of their health care,” Lozeau said earlier, explaining there are many budget items out of her control. “I think we have delivered something remarkable.”

Alderman Donchess has been highly critical of suggested pay increases for some top city employees, however.

Throughout the budget process, Donchess has maintained that there is double standard when it comes to raises being granted to select city employees.

Lozeau has insisted that raises are based on merit steps and union agreements.

Still, Donchess argues that top managers will be receiving raises of 9 percent or more over a three-year period if the budget is adopted with the recommended salaries.khoughton@newstote.com


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