Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas released his new city budget this week, and although it spends roughly $4 million more than last year, bringing the budget right up to the city spending cap, it still remains about $6 million shy of the city’s needs, according to the mayor. What should the aldermen do?
The wrong first response would be to go straight for a tax cap override and raise taxes. That would be the lazy way out.
Mayor Gatsas was right to present a budget that did not include layoffs. Most city employee unions have agreed to contract concessions that will save a good deal of money over time. The city should strive to recognize that spirit of cooperation by regarding layoffs as a last resort.
The first task should be to save the city schools’ surplus (about $1.5 million). The school board wants to spend $700,000 on five new assistant principals and $145,000 for full-day kindergarten. Now is not the time.
On the city side, some revenue proposals have been floating around. Raising parking fees, which has not been done in years, is one of them, as is pay-as-you-throw trash collection. Aldermen should give such ideas and any savings proposals a respectful hearing.
There is a sizeable gap to close, and the city needs creative solutions, not easy tax hikes or across-the-board staff cuts. Now is the time to stop trying to score political points and work together for the good of the city.