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  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    File photo: Mayor Donnalee Lozeau speaks with the editorial board Thursday, February 23, 2012, at The Telegraph in Hudson.
Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Mayor’s proposed budget for 2013 calls for hike in tax rate

NASHUA – For the second year in a row, Mayor Donnalee Lozeau is estimating a tax rate increase of no more than 3 percent, should aldermen pass her proposed $230.61 million budget for fiscal year 2013.

On Tuesday, Lozeau presented the budget proposal to city aldermen with a 278-page document outlining departmental appropriations for 2013, which Lozeau said she kept mostly unadjusted from the figures that departments had requested.

The budget, a 1.5 percent increase over the previous fiscal year, will head to the aldermanic budget review committee and be the subject of several public hearings before returning for a final board vote in June.

Last year aldermen passed Lozeau’s $227.21 million budget for fiscal 2012 in a 9-5 vote, after some heated debated over 3 percent cuts made to police and fire department budgets.

“Overall, I’m satisfied with the budget that came in,” Lozeau said Tuesday, pointing to the fact that most city divisions met her request to keep budgets to no more than a 1 percent increase over the previous year.

Police and school department budgets came in a little above that benchmark, Lozeau said, including funds that were calculated into the school budget for the two-year contacts reached with district paraprofessionals.

Costs associated with rising fuel prices and the city’s new ERP computer software program also contributed to increases in some areas, Lozeau said.

The Board of Education gave unanimous approval to its $95.4 million proposed budget in March, coming out to the mayor’s adjusted $95.6 million budget with paraprofessional contract costs, for a total increase of approximately 1.2 percent. The aldermanic budget committee will review the budget with the school department May 17.

The Police Department is proposed to have a 1.9 percent budget increase for fiscal 2013, from the $17.34 million approved for 2012 to $17.67 million in the coming year. Fire Rescue would have a 1 percent increase from $14 million to $14.14 million.

The Parks and Recreation Department’s budget is proposed to increase by 0.8 percent, from the $2.73 million approved in 2012, to $2.75 million.

The streets budget, which has absorbed the city’s traffic budget for added efficiency and savings, Lozeau said, would see a 15.6 percent budget increase from its $5.23 million budget approved in 2012, to $6.05 million proposed for 2013. The traffic budget line was wiped for 2013, after aldermen approved its $750,149 budget in 2012. About $520,000 of the traffic budget was spent as of March 31.

The traffic department had been included as part of the street department in years past, Lozeau said, and some employees were moved to other departments as a result the consolidation. The department was reduced by two employees as a result, Lozeau said, and the city saved more than $100,000 in the action.

Overall, the Public Works Division will see a budget increase of 1.7 percent if Lozeau’s budget is approved.

Faced with the lowest spending cap the city has seen in a number of years – 1.7 percent – the total budget proposal came in with $554,184 to spare.

“There’s things that you manage,” Lozeau said. “We saw this coming so we made some changes last year as well.”

The city should see savings in electricity costs, as a result of favorable price negotiations, Lozeau said, and in fuel costs as a result of the city’s switch to using some compressed natural gas vehicles.

For fiscal 2012, almost all city departments made 3 percent spending cuts to their budgets, with the exception of public schools, as the city dealt with diminished revenue and rising operational costs in pensions, health insurance costs, and reduced state aid.

City employees were asked to pay increasing shares to their health care plans, as Lozeau called on employees to assume 20 or 30 percent of their plans, at an increase of about 10 percent, depending on coverage.

Eight of the city’s 15 unions are still at an impasse over the increases, however, after their contracts expired last June.

Those still holding out only account for approximately 20 percent of the city’s unionized employees, Lozeau said. “I’m continuously optimistic,” she added.

The city tax rate will be finalized and set by the state in the fall, but Lozeau expects the city’s share of the tax bill to increase no more than 3 percent if her budget passes.

“I’ve looked at the worst case scenario,” Lozeau said, but “things change.”

The budget, as proposed however, represents good fiscal stewardship, Lozeau told aldermen during her remarks period, sharing fiscal responsibilities between divisions, employees and citizens.

“Despite these difficult times, I remain committed to keeping taxes stable and keeping increases reasonable,” Lozeau told aldermen.

Maryalice Gill can be reached at 594-6490 or mgill@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Gill on Twitter (@Telegraph_MAG).