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May 14. 2014 9:26PM

Nashua aldermen kick off review of $256.5m budget

NASHUA — Starting today, the aldermanic Budget Review Committee will begin analyzing each section of the mayor’s proposed municipal budget for fiscal year 2015 of $256.5 million.

“We are going to go through this line item by line item and make sure that everything is justified,” David Deane, president of the Board of Aldermen, said Wednesday.

Lozeau’s suggested spending plan, outlined in a 267-page document, represents a 2.2 percent increase over the existing municipal budget of $251.1 million.

If approved by city officials, the budget would result in a less than 3 percent tax increase for local residents, according to Mayor Donnalee Lozeau.

“I believe it strikes that right balance between service delivery, strong education and public safety,” Lozeau said of her recommended budget.

Under her proposal, some of the top wage earners for the city are getting raises in the coming year, including Lozeau at $112,339 (up from $110,029), Corporation Counsel Stephen Bennett at $115,941 (up from $113,556), Police Chief John Seusing at $131,265 (up from $129,312), Fire Chief Brian Morrissey at $123,772 (up from $121,226) and Superintendent Mark Conrad at $142,604 (up from $137,168).

A significant portion of the city’s operating budget, or about $127 million, includes employee salaries and wages, which does not account for additional fringe benefits that are an extra $52 million. There are an estimated 2,800 workers in the city.

A $5,000 stipend for each of the 15 aldermen — at a total of $75,000 — is also included in the budget proposal.

“Most of this budget is contracts and pension obligations,” said Deane, adding he is ready to begin studying the budget book further.

The largest department budget is the school department, which is recommending $133,758,556 in funds. However, the mayor is proposing a slightly lower school budget at around $133,598,556. The school budget includes funding for about 920 full-time teachers, 17 principals, 373 paraprofessionals and 131 custodians.

“I think what I brought you is a reasonable balance without hurting the classroom,” Lozeau told city officials this week.

In response to her decrease of $160,000 from the school’s requested funding, Lozeau said it is up to school officials to determine where to make those adjustments.

The next largest department budget is for the police department, which is suggesting $26,635,973 in funds. The mayor, however, is proposing a lower budget for police of $26,565,973. The police budget includes funding for 132 full-time patrolmen, nine lieutenants and 23 sergeants.

Although Seusing is requesting that the department’s authorized strength be increased by four officers, Lozeau said this week that she does not support that concept, but believes the department can work from within to fill staffing needs. Deane anticipates an extensive discussion about this matter tonight.

Lozeau said all departments — except for police and schools — managed to draft individual budgets that increased by less than 2 percent from the current year’s spending.

Her proposed spending plan is about $209,000 below the city’s spending cap.

Last year, the mayor reserved $1.8 million for various capital improvement projects throughout the city. This year, she is requesting $675,000 for capital improvement projects, which includes $500,000 for downtown work, $25,000 for the sidewalk program, $100,000 for school deferred maintenance and $50,000 for fire deferred maintenance. She is also proposing to use $700,000 from motor vehicle permit fees to improve local road infrastructure with additional paving.

Multiple meetings will now be held to study each aspect of the extensive budget. Although aldermen have until Aug. 1 to approve the budget, they typically hope to adopt the plan before the fiscal year begins July 1.

The first meeting of the aldermanic Budget Review Committee to address the budget has been scheduled for 7 p.m. tonight at Nashua City Hall, at which time the library and police budgets will be reviewed.

khoughton@newstote.com


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