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July 15. 2014 8:13PM

Nashua aldermen to decide $241m city budget

NASHUA — The Board of Aldermen is scheduled to vote on the proposed $241 million budget next week, although some officials are still voicing concern about the fiscal year 2015 spending plan.

Alderman David Deane, president of the board, said he is not fully pleased with the overall budget.

“There are a lot of unexpended appropriations we could work from to help offset some of the tax increase,” Deane said Monday after the aldermanic Budget Review Committee recommended with a vote of 4-2 its proposed $241,371,942 budget.

While Deane supported the proposal, he is still hopeful that adjustments will be made to help taxpayers.

“We still have other ways to reduce the tax rate,” he said, noting requests will likely be made by Mayor Donnalee Lozeau to assign unexpended funds from the prior budget into the new budget.

Deane said the anticipated escrow requests will give city officials another chance to review finances and possibly reduce some of the upcoming tax rate increase, which is expected to be less than 3 percent.To date, the committee has added $173,392 to Lozeau’s recommended budget, which includes an increase of $70,000 to the police department budget, an increase of $160,000 to the school district budget, a decrease of $40,000 for the downtown façade program and other, smaller decreases.Currently, the proposed budget stands at $241,371,942, or a 2.3 percent increase over the prior budget, according to John Griffin, chief financial officer for the city.

He said the general fund budget, if approved as recommended, represents a $5.3 million increase, and is nearly $36,000 under the city’s spending cap.

Deane has scheduled a special Board of Aldermen meeting for Tuesday, when the board is expected to vote on the budget.

He anticipates significant discussion about a proposal to move a citizen services director position from under the mayor’s office to under the purview of the Board of Aldermen.

The committee is suggesting the move, despite opposition from Mayor Donnalee Lozeau and a select group of aldermen, including Pamela Brown, Ward 4.

“The Board of Aldermen does not have the authority to control any city positions,” Brown said on Monday. “There is a group of anti-mayor aldermen that would do anything and cut anything from the mayor’s budget. They are ignoring a legal opinion.”

Brown referred to a written opinion from Stephen Bennett, corporation counsel for the city, which states that “the Board of Aldermen is not authorized to transfer, abolish or create positions within the administrative services of the city.”

The letter also states that if the board creates a position under its own direction to perform some of the tasks the current Citizen Services Director performs, “such a position would lack the authority and resources required to undertake the functions that this position now has under the office of the mayor.”

As of this week, the person who held the Citizen Services Director position for the city is no longer employed in that role, according to city officials.

Lozeau was asked publicly last week if she planned on keeping that employee — Patricia Rogers — in the position.

“I don’t know,” Lozeau said at the time, stressing the position is still important. “… I would just point out that it’s a personnel matter and it doesn’t fall under the jurisdiction of the aldermen.”

Under the city charter, aldermen have until Aug. 1 to approve the budget.

khoughton@newstote.com


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