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Public to weigh in on proposed Nashua budget

NASHUA — As city officials continue reviewing the mayor’s proposed fiscal 2015 budget, residents will have the opportunity to weigh in on the spending plan next week.

A public hearing on the recommended budget will take place at 7 p.m. Monday at Nashua High School North, where residents may voice their opinions on the proposed combined annual municipal budget of $256.5 million.

Prior to the public hearing, another aldermanic Budget Review Committee meeting will take place on Thursday, at which time the panel will review the largest department budget in the city — the school district.
The school department is requesting $133,758,556 in funds; however, Mayor Donnalee Lozeau proposed a slightly lower school budget of $133,598,556 — a suggested decrease of $160,000.

The Budget Review Committee has been meeting frequently to study and analyze the 267-page proposal, which represents a 2.2 percent increase over the existing municipal budget of $251.1 million.
If approved by city officials, the budget would result in a less than a 3 percent tax increase for residents, according to Lozeau.

“I think the budget is an excellent budget. It is highly transparent,” former alderman Fred Teeboom told the committee this week.
The panel has been examining each line of the extensive spending plan, receiving presentations from every department head in the city. Thursday’s meeting will be the last departmental review before the committee begins making any potential changes to the proposal. On Monday, Lozeau explained her recommendation to create a special revenue fund that could collect about $2 million annually for road and highway expenditures, such as paving.
She suggest that $700,000 in annual revenue from motor vehicle permit fees, coupled with a state highway block grant of about $1.3 million, be used for the special revenue fund.

Although the establishment of the fund would reduce the general fund revenue by $2 million, Lozeau said it is an ideal way to address long-term road infrastructure needs.
While $1 million is typically set aside each year for paving, Lozeau said that amount should actually be doubled.

“I think this is a really good solution,” said the mayor. While some people have argued her proposal is a way to avoid the city’s spending cap, Lozeau said that both revenue sources — the motor vehicle permit fees and the highway block grant — are user fees and are both allowed to be used toward special revenue funds. Edward Mooney, of 44 Amherst St., told the committee to think twice about establishing the special revenue fund being proposed by the mayor.
“I am concerned about the tax rate,” said Mooney, adding a $2 million loss of revenue to the tax base would be significant.

He urged the committee to return the block grant to the budget and instead create a line item for paving.
The next Budget Review Committee meeting begins at 7 p.m. Thursday at Nashua City Hall when the school budget will be considered. Although the new fiscal year begins July 1, the Board of Aldermen has until August to adopt the fiscal year 2015 budget.

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