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Spend within means

Nashua city officials should not take their 3-2 New Hampshire Supreme Court victory in the spending cap case as a mandate to go on a freewheeling shopping spree on the taxpayers’ dime.

After all, Board of Aldermen members are still accountable to the voters.

Last week, three of the five justices voted to affirm last year’s decision by Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge Charles Temple, which found the city’s spending cap unenforceable. Those finding in the city’s favor were Chief Justice Robert Lynn, along with Justice James Bassett and Justice Patrick Donovan.

“We affirm the trial court’s determination that the city’s spending cap is unenforceable because it does not contain an override provision,” the Supreme Court’s ruling states.

Former Nashua alderman Fred Teeboom helped institute the city’s spending cap 25 years ago. He sued the city and Mayor Jim Donchess in 2017, claiming the city violated the cap by enacting a new accounting system for the city’s wastewater budget.

“The three judges who voted against the spending cap should be jailed for violating state law,” a frustrated Teeboom stated via email on Friday.

In making his case, Teeboom relies on New Hampshire Revised Statutes Annotated (RSA) 49-B:13. Teeboom interprets the clause to mean that because the Nashua spending cap was enacted in 1994, while this law took effect in 2011, he should have won the case.

Clearly, a majority the Supreme Court disagreed. However, Justices Gary Hicks and Barbara Hantz Marconi dissented, therefore, agreeing with Teeboom.

The dissenting opinion states: “We would reverse the trial court’s determination that the city’s spending cap is unenforceable because it does not contain an override provision and remand for further proceedings.”

Nevertheless, New Hampshire’s highest court has ruled the spending cap unenforceable.

In June, Board of Aldermen members voted 13-1 to approve the $317 million fiscal 2020 budget introduced by Donchess. The budget is about $11 million more than the one approved for fiscal 2019.

“I am a fiscal conservative. We have a very liberal Board of Aldermen now,” Teeboom said. “The city of Nashua today is not what the city of Nashua was, even 10 years ago. These are very different times.”

Again, we hope Nashua leaders do not now decide to engage in frivolous and irresponsible spending practices. We will be sure to call them out if they do.