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Nashua seeks dismissal of spending cap suit

Union Leader Correspondent

May 22. 2017 7:55PM
At left, former Nashua alderman Fred Teeboom addresses the court alongside Steve Bolton and Dorothy Clarke, corporation counsel and deputy corporation counsel for the city of Nashua. (Kimberly Houghton/Correspondent)

NASHUA — The city’s legal team asked a judge Monday to dismiss a civil lawsuit claiming aldermen violated the city charter when they recently adopted a city ordinance that will allow the annual budget to exceed the spending cap without the required 10 votes.

Attorney Steve Bolton, corporation counsel for the city of Nashua, maintained in court that the history of the city’s spending cap has been ripe with misunderstanding since its inception more than two decades ago, and that the legislation has been amended numerous times.

Bolton argued that the lawsuit should be dismissed because there is no controversy over something that has not yet occurred, stressing Mayor Jim Donchess’ proposed budget for fiscal year 2018 has not yet been approved by aldermen.

“The court may not grant a relief for a threat that may never materialize,” said Bolton. “The fact is, it hasn’t happened yet.”

No harm has been done and the complaint is untimely, according to Bolton.

Fred Teeboom, a former alderman and the plaintiff, claims that when aldermen approved an ordinance last month that removes about $9 million of the city’s remaining wastewater costs from the general fund, it changed the calculation of the spending cap limitations and therefore requires an override by aldermen to adopt the proposed budget — even though the mayor contends that the proposed budget is under the spending cap and will not require 10 votes by the 15-member board.

“What is important here is the taxpayers. The taxpayers stand to lose a lot of money if the budget gets adopted unlawfully,” said Teeboom, adding the proposed spending plan would increase the average property bill by about $300.

The harm, according to Teeboom, will take place on June 13 or June 27 when aldermen are expected to adopt the new budget. Once the budget is passed, Teeboom said the action is irreversible.

“We have a very small amount of time to act on this,” he said while urging Judge Charles Temple at Hillsborough County Superior Court to invalidate the ordinance previously approved by aldermen that removed the wastewater costs from the general fund.

Bolton argued that aldermen are still debating the mayor’s proposed budget, adding it is still not clear whether they will increase or decrease the recommended spending plan.

“There is no fast-tracking going on,” reassured Bolton, stressing that the tax rate isn’t set until October. “They are proceeding in their normal course.”

Temple noted a similar lawsuit filed by Alderman Dan Moriarty earlier this month claiming the mayor and the city are violating spending cap limitations set forth by the city charter.

“I do have another case that raises, in my view, very similar issues. I am going to take a look at both files together,” said the judge, adding he will compare the two cases and decide whether they should be consolidated.

“I am going to carefully consider all of the well-argued issues,” said Temple, adding he will take the matter under advisement and make an expedited ruling on the city’s request to dismiss the case.

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