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Mayor highlights financial challenges facing Nashua

By KIMBERLY HOUGHTON
Union Leader Correspondent

May 18. 2018 8:34PM




NASHUA — There are several financial challenges facing the city as it moves ahead to fiscal year 2019, Mayor Jim Donchess said on Thursday.

“We need to make some tough decisions when funding city needs,” Donchess said during a public hearing on his proposed operating budget of $262.7 million; the total appropriations budget, which includes various grants and other funds that do not need to be raised by taxes, is closer to $307 million.

His recommended spending plan is a 1.6 percent increase over the existing city budget of nearly $302.3 million. According to Donchess, many financial requests by city departments are not included in his proposal.

“That is the leanest budget that we have had in the city in a long time,” Donchess said of his suggested spending plan.

“There are some cost pressures in the budget,” he acknowledged, noting a $600,000 increase in solid waste costs and an upcoming citywide revaluation.

Home values have increased significantly throughout the past five years, Donchess said, explaining that the city’s commercial properties may not have seen that much of a jump and it could possibly shift the tax burden from commercial to residential properties.

He said the city is also concerned about reductions in state revenue. While Nashua receives about $4 million in total school aid, the mayor said that number has been reduced by about $400,000.

In the face of these challenges, Donchess said he has attempted to create a budget that still maintains services and also limits spending as much as possible.

Some capital equipment reserve items have been deferred, and not all of the newly requested staffing positions from the school department and fire department are included in his budget, Donchess explained.

Although a judge recently ruled that the city’s spending cap is not enforceable, Donchess said his proposed budget is still under the cap by $1,083,539. His budget offers a 1.6 percent increase, and the spending cap, if it was enforced, would have allowed a 1.9 percent increase, he said.

Only one resident spoke out during Thursday’s public hearing on the budget.

Tina Andrade with Home Health and Hospice Care, a nonprofit visiting nurse association in Nashua, said she appreciates the funding offered to the organization each year.

While she is grateful for every penny, she did note a $12,000 cut from the city’s contribution. That cut, she said, will mean that fewer patients who have fallen through the “insurance cracks” will be able to be cared for by the group’s clinicians.

She urged the Board of Aldermen to reconsider its funding allocations to Home Health and Hospice Care.

“We are going to be doing our budget wrap-up next week,” said Alderman Richard Dowd, chairman of the aldermanic Budget Review Committee. Dowd does not expect any significant changes to be made to the mayor’s budget, which could possibly be finalized by the committee on Monday and then sent to the full Board of Aldermen for an official vote.

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