NASHUA — After a last-minute slashing of the budget by $565,000 on Monday, aldermen finally approved a new spending plan for the current fiscal year.
Four days before the Aug. 1 deadline, the Board of Aldermen authorized a $240.7 million general fund budget for fiscal year 2015. The approved budget is about $441,608 less than the mayor’s proposed budget of nearly $241.2 million.
Numerous cuts were made to the budget on Monday, including a decrease of $400,000 in pension costs, a $60,000 decrease to the school department, a $20,000 cut in snow-plowing funds, a $60,000 decrease in fuel and a $25,000 cut to unemployment compensation.
The budget passed with a vote of 11-4, with aldermen Paul Chasse, David Schoneman, Sean McGuinness and Dan Moriarty voting in opposition.
Instead of individual line-item cuts, the four aldermen strongly supported a 1 percent bottom-line cut to the operating budget, which would have been about a $2 million decrease.
“I believe that with any municipal budget, there is far more room to make adjustments than most of us would like to assume,” Schoneman told his fellow board members. “I believe this would be workable if people are willing to work on it.”
Moriarty agreed, saying it would be more fair to all of the city departments if a uniform reduction was implemented. By making cuts on individual line items, it is unfair to some departments and biased toward others, maintained Moriarty.
Alderman Brian McCarthy disagreed.
“We are here to decide priorities, not to be fair,” said McCarthy, stressing aldermen would be ducking their responsibilities if they did not increase or decrease certain accounts.
Alderman Pam Brown urged the board to oppose the overall 1 percent cut.
“I believe that is somewhat reckless because of the unknown consequences,” she said.
Alderman Ken Siegel, who proposed all of the individual line-item cuts on Monday, said he was not picking on any one department.
“This isn’t really superstar stuff, it is just looking,” said Siegel, adding he was able to find trends where several accounts were overbudgeted in recent years.
According to the city charter, aldermen had until Friday to approve the new fiscal year budget, which is about $4.7 million more than the former budget. It is expected to increase the tax rate by less than 3 percent.