Budget gets consideration

Public hearing set for June

NASHUA – The proposed $258 million budget pitched by Mayor Jim Donchess is still being mulled over as the city aldermen look at the numbers.

The budget proposal was handed to the Board of Aldermen Tuesday night, with Ward 9 Alderman Ken Siegel saying sections of it will start going to the Budget Review Committee for hearings later this month.

A public hearing on the total budget is sect for June 9 in the auditorium at the Nashua High School North.

The General Fund budget for fiscal 2018, which begins July 1, is $258,394,971, an increase of 4.3 percent (more than $10 million) over 2017’s $247,886,768. The overall effect of the budget on the tax rate is estimated to be about a 3 percent increase.

Donchess said the budget is focused on two major priorities; funding full-day kindergarten for all Nashua schools, and combating the opioid addiction crisis by making sure police officers, firefighters, and teachers all have the resources they need to continue to provide critical services.

Ward 4 Alderman Tom Lopez said this focus on the opioid crisis is crucial for the city and he applauded the budget. While the city has seen some success in fighting the public health crisis with more police actions and the addition of the Safe Stations program, there is more to be done, he added.

“In reality, we’re just holding the line against it,” Lopez said. “We can’t let our guard down.”

Siegel’s initial concerns with the budget center on the Citizen’s Participatory Budgeting program Donchess is putting forward. Under that plan, which must first be approved by aldermen, a volunteer citizen’s committee would be able to draft proposals to spend $200,000 of the budget, and city residents will vote on the final project.

“That caught me by surprise,” Siegel said of the proposal.

Siegel wants to look at the total budget proposal first and study the Citizen’s Participatory Budgeting proposal more before coming to a decision.

The proposed budget is not without controversy. Though it is coming in $1.9 million under the spending cap limit, Alderman At-Large Daniel Moriarty disputes this figure.

“It is an insult to the taxpayers of Nashua to say this budget is $1.9 million under the cap,” Moriarty said.

The Board of Aldermen recently approved an ordinance shifting the way the wastewater enterprise fund was accounted for, taking it entirely out of the General Fund. This move created about $9 million of spending cap space for 2018, and also resulted in former Alderman Fred Teeboom’s lawsuit to for allegedly subverting the spending cap. Moriarty is supporting Teeboom in the lawsuit.

“Through willful interpretation of the spending cap laws (Donchess) has increased spending by $10 million, of which $5 million is over the cap when properly calculated,” Moriarty said.