NASHUA — After several failed attempts to reduce the city’s proposed budget, the Board of Aldermen on Tuesday officially adopted the fiscal year 2014 spending plan.
An operating budget of $236,009,508 was approved, with the overall municipal budget tallying $251,496,027.
“It is still, in my opinion, a good, solid budget,” Mayor Donnalee Lozeau told officials. She described the budget as responsible, adding it is about $500,000 below spending levels from 2007, and more than $380,000 below the city’s existing spending cap.
The budget was approved on a 10-4 vote. Ten votes were needed to finalize the budget plan.
Several last minute recommendations were made to reduce specific line items from the budget, mostly from Alderman-at-Large David Deane, but they were not supported by the majority of board members.
“I know this is a fruitless exercise, but you know what, I am going to do it anyway,” Deane said at one point while trying to eliminate a salaried position. Deane also tried to reduce about $6,300 from the budget, which is used to purchase food for either City Hall workers or visitors.
“This is money that is brought in from tax dollars to feed people,” said Deane. “It is meals.”
His motion, however, was not approved by his fellow colleagues.
“I am just not comfortable with a lot that is going on in here,” Deane said after realizing other board members would not support his changes, adding he was surprised aldermen would allow the spending plan to be authorized.
Deane was one of four aldermen opposed to the budget, joining James Donchess, Dan Moriarty and Barbara Pressly.
“I believe the budget includes a standard of inconsistency,” said Donchess, who has repeatedly claimed a double standard when it comes to salary wages for city workers.
While some top city employees are receiving 9 percent pay increases over a three year period, city officials recently rejected police union contracts that would have issued 4.2 percent raises for some top police workers over the same three years, said Donchess.
“Simply, the taxpayers cannot afford it,” Moriarty said. “I think the balance is incorrect.”
There is too much money placed in salary line items and not enough for building maintenance, especially within the school district budget, he argued.
“I too have some concerns,” echoed Pressly, who voiced her disapproval with the Main Street renovation project, which accounts for at least $500,000 in the budget.
The budget, as approved, will result in a less than 3 percent tax increase for local residents, according to Mayor Donnalee Lozeau.
“People need stability in tax rates,” Lozeau said, noting that over the years, the city has made good spending decisions despite significant loss in revenue.
Andrew Huot, a local resident who rents an apartment downtown, said he was disappointed with aldermen who voted in favor of the increased budget.
Huot, 25, says he is making about $8 an hour and is struggling to pay his rent.
“I’m trying to do what I have to do,” he said, contending aldermen are going to force out hard-working people who are trying to make ends meet. “You guys thought of yourself and not the people.”
Last year’s tax increase was nearly 2.5 percent.
Alderman-at-Large Mark Cookson was excused from the meeting.