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Saturday, May 24, 2014

Nashua fielding questions about city budget online

Are you wondering how much money has gone into Nashua’s sidewalk project?

Are you curious about who’s getting a raise this year? ...

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Are you wondering how much money has gone into Nashua’s sidewalk project?

Are you curious about who’s getting a raise this year?

Are you looking for a breakdown of staffing changes proposed by the mayor?

Ask away.

Nashua residents who have questions about the city’s budget have a direct line to City Hall once again this year via the city’s website. Residents can submit written questions about the proposed fiscal 2015 budget through the website and receive responses from city staff.

The idea originated from Stoney Brook Road resident Robert Sullivan, who said he was hoping to give residents an easier way to get their questions about the budget answered.

“I thought it would encourage citizen participation,” Sullivan told the aldermanic Budget Review Committee on Monday night. “Allow them to not get in front of a microphone like I’m doing this evening and ask questions, and … allow the aldermen to see another perspective of types of questions that citizens are asking.”

Sullivan proposed the idea last year in an April 12 letter to the Board of Aldermen and Mayor Donnalee Lozeau’s administration. Sullivan asked the city to post all of the questions and responses on the city’s website.

The city took up his suggestion, creating a Web form that allows residents to fire off their budget queries. However, Sullivan said he was disappointed with the lack of publicity for the initiative.

Sullivan said he was surprised he didn’t read about the new service in the newspaper or see information about it featured on Channel 16, the city’s public access channel devoted to government information.

“There was no marketing of that effort,” he said. “There was no alerting. The Telegraph didn’t have anything. The previous chair of the Budget Committee wouldn’t even announce that that capability existed prior to the beginning of a budget meeting. Why wasn’t that done?”

Sullivan also said he hoped to see more questions answered. Six questions and responses appeared on the website last year, he said, even though he said he believes as many as 22 questions were submitted to the city.

Sullivan said he hopes to see more residents take advantage of the service this year to get a better understanding of the qualitative aspects of the budget – things such as how the delivery of services will change in the coming fiscal year and what efforts are being taken to reduce spending.

“It seems to me … that people get sucked into the process of being driven by numbers, but we get very little qualitative information, which are basically the more important parts of the budget,” he said.

To submit a budget question, visit www.gonashua.com/SubmitaBudgetQuestion/tabid/1110/Default.aspx.

– Telegraph staff