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Nashua mayor presents budget to aldermen

Union Leader Correspondent

May 14. 2013 10:34PM

NASHUA — The mayor appeared before the Board of Aldermen on Tuesday to unveil her fiscal year 2014 budget, which represents an increase of 2.3 percent from the existing budget.

Mayor Donnalee Lozeau’s proposed operating budget of $236,048,064 is about $5.3 million more than the current budget.

Lozeau said more than half of the 2.3 percent increase is attributed to a hike in the New Hampshire Retirement System pension costs of about $3.7 million.

If approved by city officials, the $236 million budget would result in a less than 3 percent tax increase for local residents, according to the mayor. Last year’s tax increase was nearly 2.5 percent, she said.

According to John Griffin, chief financial officer, about 75 percent of the city’s operating budget — or $177 million — accounts for employee salaries and benefits. The city employs more than 2,800 workers.

“We can’t cut staff if we want to continue with the same level of service,” said Lozeau. “We have not been bringing in a lot of new employees.”

She is recommending a few additional employees for the Public Works and Parks and Recreation departments.

Lozeau requested that each city department offer a proposed budget with a less than 1 percent increase from the previous year. Each department met that goal with the exception of the police, fire and school departments, said Lozeau. She said, however, that contingency funds allowed those three budgets to ultimately meet the 1 percent request.

“I didn’t cut anybody’s budget,” she said, adding every bottom-line recommendation from each city department head was granted in the mayor’s proposed budget.

Griffin said he attempted to forecast revenues very conservatively in the upcoming budget, which he believes is a responsible spending plan.

“We are optimistic for the future that the economy will turn around,” Griffin said on Tuesday.

Lozeau’s proposed spending plan is about $343,000 below the city’s spending cap. The city’s current assessed value is about $8.4 billion, compared to around $9.5 billion when the mayor took office a few years ago.

“We’ve had all good news in spite of the challenging problems,” Lozeau said before Tuesday’s budget presentation. Rating agencies have praised the city because it continues to invest in its buildings, employees and infrastructure, she said.

“This is just the first step in the budget process,” she added.

Multiple meetings will be held to study each aspect of the nearly 260-page document, she said. Aldermen have until Aug. 1 to approve the budget, but the mayor is hoping it will be adopted before the fiscal year begins on July 1.

The largest department in the general fund is the school department, with a proposed budget of $129 million, which includes benefits. The proposed police department budget is about $25.5 million, the fire department budget is recommended at about $20.5 million and the Public Works budget is about $11.3 million, all of which include benefits.

According to the proposal, the mayor’s salary — if approved — would increase from $107,555 to $110,029. A $5,000 stipend for each of the 15 aldermen — at a total of $75,000 — is also included in the budget proposal.

The first aldermanic Budget Review Committee to address the budget has been scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at Nashua City Hall.

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