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Manchester officials push budget decision to next week's deadline

New Hampshire Union Leader

June 04. 2014 12:23AM

MANCHESTER — The Board of Mayor and Aldermen has scheduled a special meeting to vote on a budget next Tuesday, which is also the deadline to pass a budget for the 2015 fiscal year that starts in less than four weeks.

The vote for a special meeting, to be held Tuesday, June 10, came after a lengthy debate Tuesday on one proposed budget, devised by Aldermen Jim Roy, Ward 4, and William Shea, Ward 7. The aldermen rejected the budget by a vote of 9-4.

The Shea-Roy budget would have required an override of the tax cap, which restricts the growth of the budget by 2.13 percent over the current budget. The Shea-Roy budget was 3.97 percent larger than last year's, exceeding the tax cap by 1.84 percent.

The budget that appears to have the most support among the aldermen would also exceed the tax cap, by a slightly higher margin than the Shea-Roy budget. Based on the vote at Tuesday's meeting, it appears likely that budget, drawn up by Aldermen Joyce Craig, Ward 1, and Pat Long, Ward 3, has enough support to pass.

Only two aldermen, Keith Hirschmann, Ward 12, and Joe Kelly Levasseur, at-large, spoke out against overriding the tax cap. They've devised a tax cap budget, which is also expected to be considered next week.

Overriding the tax cap requires 10 votes on the 14-member board.

The aldermen who supported the Shea-Roy budget are expected to swing their support to the Craig-Long budget, which already appears to have the backing of a majority of the aldermen.

Mayor Ted Gatsas was critical of certain aspects of the Shea-Roy budget, but he said he supported its proposed override of the tax cap, the first time he has publicly stated as much.

"This is pretty close to my discussions in private," Gatsas said. "I was clear I would support a tax hike under 4 percent … I support 3.97 percent."

Several residents urged the aldermen to uphold the tax cap during the public comment period at the beginning of Tuesday's meeting.

"It's simple," Tammy Simmons told the aldermen. "The people of Manchester want the city to live within its means, just like they do."

But several aldermen said they heard from many constituents who were fed up with rising crime and poor roads.

"The inner city is bursting with crime," Ward 9 Alderman Barbara Shaw said. "The people are crying for things to change in this city. They don’t care about the tax cap anymore. They want to see changes made, so they can see what they're getting for their money."

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