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July 22. 2014 10:12PM

Still no budget in Nashua

NASHUA - Three weeks after the fiscal year began, aldermen on Tuesday failed to approve the fiscal year 2015 budget.

City officials needed 10 votes to pass the recommended $241,321,942 general fund budget, or a combined annual municipal budget of $256.7 million. Following three hours of discussion, nine aldermen voted in favor of the spending plan, and six voted in opposition.

"I see us as one team, all here for the same reason," Mayor Donnalee Lozeau told aldermen prior to the final public debate on the budget, acknowledging she was disappointed that aldermen recommended to add to her proposed budget $160,000 for the school district and $70,000 for the police department.

She also urged aldermen to support the creation of a special revenue fund that would set aside revenues from block grants and annual motor vehicle permit fees -- about $2 million -- to help pave city roadways. While Lozeau described this as a unique solution to help improve failing roads, Alderman-at-Large Dan Moriarty argued the maneuver essentially bypasses the city's spending cap.

"Either way you look at it, we are over the cap," agreed Alderman Paul Chasse, saying the $2 million in paving needs should be included in the budget, not set aside as a special fund.

Alderman Sean McGuinness described the mayor's proposal for a special revenue fund as a "politically elegant" move he would rather see in the budget since roads are a high priority by residents.

Others, including Alderman-at-Large Brian McCarthy, stressed that the mayor's proposal is legal, and is a good way to address deteriorating roadways. The establishment of the special revenue fund was ultimately supported by aldermen 11-4.

Also debated was a change in the mayor's recommended budget that moved a citizen services director position from the mayor's office to under the purview of the Board of Aldermen, a move the city's attorney said is inappropriate.

"I think this is just a really bad idea the way we did it," said McCarthy, maintaining he would not support the budget with the nearly $50,000 salary under the aldermen's budget.

Patricia Rogers held that position until last week, but is no longer employed by the city. Lozeau has declined to comment on the matter, calling it a personnel issue. Still, she asked aldermen to return the position to the mayor's office, saying it is an important and efficient role she would like to fill.

"The reason she is gone is for a very bad reason, in my mind," Alderman Ken Siegel said of Rogers, who he contends did a great job at her position. "That person was extremely competent and was removed from her position, in my opinion, for inappropriate reasons."

Siegel supported placing the role under the direction of the Board of Aldermen, along with Alderman-at-Large James Donchess who claimed Rogers -- described by one city official as a "superstar" -- was fired for no reason.

"I just don't think it is right for her to be put on the street," said Donchess. " ... no justification has been stated."

"We are not the appeals board for employee relations," argued McCarthy, questioning how select aldermen have knowledge about a private personnel matter.

Funding for the position was eventually returned to the mayor's office with a vote of 9-6.
Under the city charter, aldermen have until Aug. 1 to approve the new budget.

Former Alderman Paula Johnson said she and others cannot afford their taxes any longer.

"Two percent is not acceptable," Johnson said of the proposed increase over the prior budget. "I am just tired of taxes rising."

Fred Teeboom, another former alderman, said he was disappointed the Budget Review Committee increased the mayor's proposed budget rather than reducing the spending plan.

khoughton@newstote.com



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