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November 20. 2013 9:57PM

Nashua mayor takes heat for budget

NASHUA — Mayor Donnalee Lozeau was publicly challenged by a city alderman on Wednesday to prepare a “skimpy” budget next year in light of the recent tax rate increase.

“Just look at the foreclosures around,” said Alderman Paul Chasse, Ward 6.

Chasse said he was a little “buffaloed” when he opened his recent property tax bill and realized it had increased significantly for his $200,000 home.

“I challenge you Mayor Lozeau to come in with a skimpy budget,” he said, giving the Board of Aldermen a failing grade for its adoption of the current budget.

Lozeau acknowledged that she is paying about $400 more in her personal tax bill as well, adding she has received calls from some concerned homeowners.

Still, she noted that 53 percent of property owners in the city experienced the same or no increase at all in the tax bills mailed out last week. The citywide revaluation conducted this year impacted 47 percent of homeowners who are seeing a hike in their tax bills, she admitted.

Homeowners who were billed an additional $200-$500 were likely paying less than what they should have been for the past two years because their property assessments may have needed an adjustment, according to the mayor.

“I don’t disagree with you that it is still tough time for people,” Lozeau told Chasse during an aldermanic Finance Committee meeting when the issue was raised. “… But, I think we’ve done a good job with what we’ve been handed.”

Chasse said he is worried about new union contracts that are being approved with employee wage increases, and how that will impact next year’s budget and the tax rate.

“I don’t want to see anybody laid off, but you have to do what you have to do sometimes,” said Chasse.

Lozeau reminded committee members that there was about $3.7 million in pension costs associated with the current budget, maintaining city officials have no control over those costs.

“After that, there wasn’t a lot of spending,” she said, adding the city recently sold some bonds at lower interest rates — savings that will be noticed in a couple of years.

Although the city’s new tax rate increased by more than 9 percent, about half of the homeowners in Nashua did not notice an increase in their property tax bills because of the recent revaluation.

The New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration set the city’s new tax rate at $23.50 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, which is up 9.35 percent from last year’s tax rate of $21.49, or an increase of $2.01 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

Lozeau stressed Wednesday that without the revaluation, the tax rate would have only increased 2.5 percent.According to the mayor, 53 percent of local taxpayers had no increase or a decrease in their tax bill. About 21 percent of residents had an increase of up to $200 in their tax bill, 16 percent had an increase between $200-$500 and 10 percent had an increase of more than $500.

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