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February 04. 2012 8:09PM

Beth LaMontagne Hall's City Hall: Gatsas misses self-imposed deadline to release budget


 

JAN. 30 WAS supposed to be a big day for the city, but it came and went like any other winter Monday. It was the day Mayor Ted Gatsas said in his inaugural address he would release his city budget to the aldermen, making it the earliest any mayor released a budget in recent history.

Two weeks ago, Gatsas blamed the delay on the aldermen's failure to ratify the police unions' contracts the night the deals were brought to them. But with more unions coming to the table and a deal with the city's unaffiliated workers pending, the budget isn't coming soon. When asked for a general time frame, Gatsas said he has until March 30 under the charter, so it will be sometime before then.

In a release he sent out Friday, Jan. 27, about union concessions, he elaborated on his reasons for the delay.

“At this point I believe it would be counterproductive to deliver a budget on Monday that includes layoffs in departments that are trying to put together tentative agreements,” said Gatsas. “We need to do everything possible to conclude these discussions in the same tenor and positive discourse that we have started with. If this means more time before a budget is presented, then I am willing to provide our bargaining units with that additional time.”

The city has agreed to union deals with the Manchester Association of Police Supervisors, the Manchester Patrolman's Association and the Manchester Fire Supervisors. Tentative agreements have also been reached with the Teamsters representing Manchester City Library and Manchester-Boston Regional Airport staff. Non-union employees sent upper-level city management to work out a deal with Gatsas similar to the deals the unions are getting.

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THERE'S BEEN a lot of speculation about where Gatsas' budget — and its accompanying tax increase — will come in now that the tax cap is in place. Gatsas hinted there probably wouldn't be a reduction, meaning the tax rate increase would be somewhere between 0 percent and 1.46 percent, the amount allowed by the charter.

If you'd like to place a bet on something besides the Super Bowl today, I suggest placing your money on the upper end of that range.

A 1.46 percent increase in the current tax rate would set the new rate at about $22.28 per $1,000 of property value. For a $200,000 home, that would be an additional $64 on the annual property taxes. This is just an estimate, however, since the annual rate is set by the state.

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THE CITY HAS a potential buyer for the land once slated for a liquor store. Andrade Management Group of Manchester made a $550,000 offer to buy the parcel at the corner of Granite and Second streets, next to the on-ramp to Interstate 293. The group plans to build a Dunkin' Donuts with a drive-through window on the site.

The site was once eyed for a state liquor store, but the New Hampshire Liquor Commission backed away from the plans after soil contamination was found on the property.

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ALDERMAN AT-LARGE Dan O'Neil wants Manchester to be proactive when it comes to bringing jobs to the city. He has proposed forming a Special Committee on Job Creation, Job Retention and Economic Development. The committee would work on improving communication between the city and the business community; improving the regulatory and permitting processes; examining current and future parking needs; strengthening the connection between the city, businesses and local colleges; and creating a marketing plan to promote Manchester to industries as a great place to work and live.

Business growth in the city is as important as ever, wrote O'Neil, and the elected leaders “need to make sure that we are doing everything possible to provide for a business-friendly environment in our city for current and future businesses.”

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WHEN THE SCHOOL BOARD finally approves a budget to send to the city side, Vice Chairman Dave Gelinas wants to also send an addendum letting the aldermen know how much the schools really need.

The board is working on what members refer to as a “tax cap budget,” which is restricted to the 1.46 percent increase. The board also has what it calls a “needs budget,” or how much services would cost if all staff and programs remained in place as they are today. Gelinas said the aldermen should get a copy of the needs budget “so at least the public can see the difference between the two.”

Even with concessions, the district needs about $2.8 million to come under the cap, Gelinas said.

“It's frustrating because there is nothing we can do but go downwards,” he said. “We're asking the aldermen to give us the same number they gave us last year.”

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FORMER ALDERMAN Real Pinard stepped down from his position on the Fire Commission on Jan. 20 for personal reasons, and Planning Board member Robert Martel stepped down the same day because he will be unable to attend the meetings between now and when his term expires in May.

Read Beth Hall LaMontage's coverage of Manchester City Hall in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email her at bhall@unionleader.com.


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