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Budget discussions top schedule this week in Manchester

New Hampshire Union Leader

March 19. 2017 11:17PM

MANCHESTER — A busy week of budget discussions is on tap at City Hall, with a special meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen planned for Wednesday night to review concerns from several city officials on the impact Mayor Ted Gatsas’ proposed Fiscal Year 2018 budget may have on their departments.

That special session is planned for 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Aldermanic Chambers at City Hall. That will be preceded Tuesday by the regular meeting of the board, where members of the school board are expected to pitch their tax-cap budget request of $165,007,505 for FY’18. Along with the budget number, school board members voted to send along a list of priorities the board would add back in if given a dollar figure higher than that, on up to a level-funded request of $170,080,065. That list includes health and Spanish curriculum at the middle school level, a reading program and addressing class size issues in city elementary schools.

The mayor’s proposed FY’18 budget comes in at $315.9 million: $150.9 million in spending on the city side and $165 million for the school district. The budget was crafted under the restraints of a tax cap that limits new spending to just under $2.5 million.

Gatsas’ budget fully funds the 237 police positions approved by aldermen and fully funds and maintains the coverage ratios for the Manchester Fire Department. Gatsas’ budget also proposes no layoffs of city personnel and fully funds the Department of Public Works, while operating within the 1.2 percent tax increase outlined in the voter-approved tax cap that allows about $2.5 million in additional spending over the previous fiscal year.

The FY’18 budget proposal makes no allocations for costs associated with collective bargaining units, other than police, for steps, longevity and cost of living adjustments — including the city’s non-affiliated employees — and doesn’t include funds to cover severance costs.

Departments scheduled to go before city aldermen on Wednesday include health, police, fire, highway and fleet.

In a memo sent to the aldermen in advance of this week’s meeting, Central Fleet Services Director Kevin O’Maley describes the impact the budget would have on his department.

“The Fleet department expects to have at least one retirement next fiscal year,” writes O’Maley. “The severance for that retirement is estimated to be $30,000. If we had to fund severance we would be without a mechanic for over half the year.”

The mayor’s budget includes an increase of more than $2.4 million for the police department, but in a letter to aldermen Asst. Chief Carlo Capano also expressed concerns over the impact severance costs could have on his department. According to Capano, city police project six sworn officers and 2 civilian employees retiring in FY’18, with total severance costs projected at $393,460 — not including $10,000 in contractual incentives.

“The first concern would be the ability to hire in a timely fashion,” writes Capano. “This would possibly force us to hold promotions and filling vacant positions until we are able to recuperate some of the money that was spent on the severance. The potential holding off on filling vacant positions would put us in a position that we could possibly fall below full complement.”

Fire Chief Dan Goonan points out in a memo to the board that the mayor’s budget proposal of $19,732,544 for the city’s fire department is $48,958 less than his initial request. Goonan writes he anticipates eight possible retirements in FY’18.

“Unfortunately, we are not in a position to keep jobs open to cover any budget shortfalls,” writes Goonan. “The union contract mandates a daily minimum of 46 on-duty personnel to stay at ‘straight time overtime.’ Any reductions in personnel would result in overtime being paid at a rate of time-and-a-half, which would undoubtedly impact our budget.”

The agenda for Wednesday's special meeting can be viewed below, along with some of the concerns being raised:

Local and County Government Manchester

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