City budget talk: How about solutions instead?
It is spring, and Manchester aldermen are criticizing the city budget proposed by Mayor Ted Gatsas, which is like saying that bears are pawing at bird feeders and geese are flying overhead in a northerly direction. The budget potshots have become a seasonal ritual. Aldermen should change it up this year, and we have just the idea: propose an alternative that funds everything they say they want to fund.
Last year, we got a compromise budget after Aldermen Joyce Craig and Pat Long spent months working on one, with the mayor's support, and passed it. We also had some interesting talk last April about whether to try to repeal the spending cap. There is no city election this year, so that is out, but will the aldermen who decry the mayor's proposal push for a spending cap override?
Mayor Gatsas said in an interview last week that his proposal was a "tax cap budget." It is, and aldermen have the option, which they exercised last year, to offer a different budget that spends the same amount but spends it differently. They also have the option of voting to override the cap.
Speaking of the police department budget, Alderman Long said last week, "We're on the cusp right now. It's not going to take much where this city is going to dissolve." The city got five new officers in January and Gatsas' budget would fund more. Police Chief David Mara wants 48 more officers, but that would cost more than $2 million - a year.
Personnel cost money, and every year city department heads say they can't possibly do without the level of funding they propose, but then they wind up making do with less. If aldermen think the city really is at the point where it has to exceed the spending cap - even though Gatsas' proposed budget increases spending by about $4 million over the current budget - then they should write that budget and make the case for it. If they are not willing to do that, then they should work with department heads to come up with an acceptable budget that stays within the cap, as they did last year.