MANCHESTER — Mayor Joyce Craig presented her budget for fiscal year 2020 Wednesday night, a spending proposal maximizing “taxpayer dollars while respecting the tax cap.” (To read the Mayor’s budget address in its entirety, go to www.unionleader.com.)
The mayor’s proposed FY 2020 budget comes in at $349.1 million. It includes $157.7 million in spending on the city side and $179.7 million for the school district.
“Despite our challenges, we all know Manchester has boundless potential,” said Craig. “And today, our city is working because we’re working together. This budget is a starting point. As additional surplus is generated, aldermen will be able to take advantage of future projections.”
Craig’s budget operates within the 2.03 percent tax increase outlined in the voter-approved tax cap; that offers about $4.3 million in additional property tax revenue over the previous fiscal year.
Craig proposes bonding the purchase of body cameras for all Manchester police officers, and another $4.5 million in bonds for upgrades and treatments along 50 miles of city roads, and adds two new city staff members to address substance use disorder, mental health and homelessness.
The budget also invests $550,000 in improving city sidewalks, $1.65 million to improve city parks, and $500,000 for stormwater infrastructure projects to address flooding issues in the Queen City.
Craig also allocates a $4.3 million increase to the Manchester School District, the largest increase in funding to city schools since 2006.
“As elected officials, we have a responsibility to provide our children with quality public education that prepares them for a successful future,” said Craig. “For years, the Manchester School District has been asked to do more with less. And despite the progress we’ve made, Manchester’s per-pupil spending is still the lowest in the state. This isn’t a problem we can solve overnight, but this tax cap budget moves us in the right direction.”
Craig’s budget does not fully cover all the additional requests put forth by school board members, including six collective bargaining agreements and non-affiliated staff and investments in technology. It also doesn’t cover salary costs outside existing contracts on the city side, but covers all existing collective bargaining contracts and salary agreements.
The school board submitted a tax cap budget request of $172 million, to cover reducing class sizes to meet the needs of redistricting, expanding MST, and increasing funds to the district’s special education program.
The school board also sent a second budget request seeking an additional $3.6 million to address other needs, including $2.5 million for six collective bargaining agreements and non-affiliated staff, and $1.1 million in technology investments.
“In this tax cap budget, I am allocating an additional $1.5 million over the Board of School Committee’s original tax cap budget,” said Craig.
“At a time when we need to add substantially more funding to support our public schools, we recognize the funding we can allocate is limited. Over the years, Manchester taxpayers have been forced to pick up more of the costs previously paid for by the state.”
Craig’s budget also includes $12 million in bonded funds the Board of School Committee approved. Guidelines governing the issuing of these bonds dictate they can’t be used for operating costs, such as salaries or benefits.
The proposed budget includes approved bonds for:
$1 million for school technology upgrades and replacements across the district;
$2.2 million in infrastructure costs associated with the redistricting plan;
$1 million for the purchase of 10 school buses;
$3 million for deferred maintenance projects.
Craig’s budget provides funds for severance and adds a projected $778,000 to the city’s severance reserve, though the mayor cautioned that based on FY’19 severance payments, “there may not be enough to cover severance in FY’20.”
Craig’s budget adds two new city staff members, charged with addressing the issues of substance use disorder, mental health and homelessness.
“These two positions will work to prevent and address the most challenging needs in our city, issues our residents have been faced with for many years,” said Craig.
According to Craig, the treatment and recovery specialist position is covered “at no cost to local taxpayers” through funding from The National Association of County and City Health Officials, the state, and a grant from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation.
In response to feedback from the Task Force on Homelessness, the proposed budget allocates $30,000 to go along with a commitment from Granite United Way to cover “more than half of the balance for a homelessness prevention and response coordinator,” Craig said.
“These two individuals will coordinate efforts among city departments, nonprofits, businesses, the faith-based community and residents,” said Craig.
Craig said this summer Manchester police will increase patrols on Elm Street. A three-officer walking route will put two officers downtown during the day, and one officer during the evening seven days a week, Craig said, in addition to the dedicated downtown Community Police Officer Anna Martin. Craig’s budget also funds an additional two-person walking route Thursday through Sunday nights.
“There will also be a motor vehicle officer dedicated to Elm Street, and the mounted patrol, community police officers and route officers will regularly patrol Victory, Kalivas, Pulaski, Bronstein and Veterans Parks, as well as the areas in between,” said Craig.
For the Manchester Fire Department, Craig’s budget includes $150,000 for extended service coverage for the citywide radio system, and funds a fully-staffed ladder truck at Station 6 on the West Side.
The budget also includes $1.9 million — necessary to receive $7.6 million in matching funds from the state — to rehabilitate the Queen City Bridge.
Craig’s budget also bonds $175,000 to replace the playground at Derryfield Park, and $160,000 to restore the Civil War Soldier’s Monument in Veterans Park.
Craig proposed using $450,000 to address city sidewalks, the majority of which will come from the Municipal Transportation Fund. Projects will include the development of a long-term sidewalk maintenance plan, continuation of the 50/50 sidewalk replacement program, improvements to school sidewalks, and making more sidewalks ADA compliant.
A public hearing on Craig’s budget will be held April 9 at 6 p.m. at City Hall.
“Our community is dynamic, vibrant, and serves as the economic engine of the state,” said Craig. “We have our challenges, as does every urban community, but this tax cap budget enables us to address our challenges head on, and move our city forward.”