Monthly Archives: June 2011

Finally there’s some good news in the ongoing budget battle at City Hall–and just in time, as a compromise on the budget must be reached by Thursday–the City has received $600,000 of unexpected revenue.  According to the Union Leader, Mayor Gatsas believes “the board will be able to avoid proposed cuts that would have reduced bus services and close the West Side Library” in addition to reducing the tax increase from 3.4% to roughly 3%.  Anyone who wants to ensure that funding for these services are restored should contact their aldermen and the mayor ahead of tomorrow night’s vote.

Here’s the full scoop from the Union Leader:

City budget drama nearing an end

by Tim Buckland

MANCHESTER — The city’s protracted and often contentious budget deliberations could come to an end at Tuesday’s budget meeting, Mayor Ted Gatsas said.

“I think there will be a budget that we’ll move through on Tuesday,” the mayor said.

The Board of Aldermen adopted a budget, but Gatsas vetoed it. If the city budget Gatsas proposed in March were to go into effect — aldermen have until Thursday to adopt an alternative budget, according to the charter — there could be up to 50 city layoffs and major cuts to programs and personnel. That plan also includes a 3.4 percent tax increase.

The city’s tax rate, which includes city, school and county taxes, of $17.81 per $1,000 of assessed value would increase to $18.41 per $1,000. Property taxes for the owner of a home assessed at $200,000 would increase $120, from $3,562 to $3,682.

So far, aldermen haven’t yet indicated they’d come up with a plan that would have the mayor’s blessing or the 10 votes necessary to override the mayor’s veto.

However, Gatsas said, he believes a compromise will be reached Tuesday to use $600,000 in unanticipated revenue to lower the projected tax increase.

“We might be getting to less than 3 percent,” he said. “I think there may be good news on Tuesday.”

But that plan, which calls for laying off as many as 15 firefighters, has some critics, including Alderman Betsi DeVries, a former city firefighter who has said the layoffs, particularly those in public safety, could be avoided with a minimal tax increase.

Gatsas said he believes the board will be able to avoid proposed cuts that would have reduced bus services and close the West Side Library, but said the firefighter layoffs are still on the table, though with the retirement of a firefighter, “we may be down to 14.”

The firefighters’ union has been critical of the mayor’s plans, saying he is using firefighters as political pawns. Last month, Fire Chief James Burkush said the proposed budget would mean he’d have to close fire stations periodically to account for the shortfall in staff.

With unfilled positions and the proposed layoffs, the department would be down more than 30 firefighters from its staff roster.

Gatsas also said next year’s budget for fiscal year 2013 will be even more difficult thanks to a projected shortfall between $19 million and $22 million.

“I think the drama is going to be very excruciating in the next budget,” he said.

(Union Leader staff writer Beth LaMontagne Hall contributed to this report.)

Great news from Concord today, Gov. John Lynch has vetoed the anti-urban, anti-livability, anti-economic growth bill to repeal the New Hampshire Rail Transit Authority:

Gov. Lynch’s Veto Message Regarding HB 218

By the authority vested in me, pursuant to part II, Article 44 of the New Hampshire Constitution, on June 15, 2011, I vetoed HB 218, relative to the New Hampshire rail transit authority.

I am vetoing this legislation because business leaders, particularly in Nashua and Manchester, has clearly said that this bill will hurt their efforts to grow their businesses, to create jobs and to attract new companies to New Hampshire.

The New Hampshire business community has made a clear statement that it sees rail, in the words of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, as “a proven economic catalyst that will spur economic development and create jobs.”  Several major companies have made clear that they believe rail will improve their ability to attract workers, access their markets, attract additional customers and grow their businesses in New Hampshire.  In addition, the Manchester and Nashua chambers of commerce both believe that developing the state’s rail infrastructure will assist their efforts to attract new businesses and jobs to the state.  That is one reason both chambers have asked me to veto this legislation.  The Merrimack Town Council, the Bedford Town Council, and the Nashua Board of Aldermen have also passed resolutions expressing support for expanded rail service and the benefits it would bring to their communities.

The support of the business community is validated by an independent study that concluded that the development of rail in the capital corridor could result in more than $2.4 billion in new business sales and nearly 1,000 new jobs created and sustained in New Hampshire in the first twenty years of operation.

HB 218 makes substantial changes to New Hampshire Rail Transit Authority that will reduce its ability to fully consider all transit options for the state. New Hampshire businesses banded together to raise $120,000 to fund the Rail Authority’s grant application without any state funds because they believe a full consideration of rail is important to New Hampshire’s economic future. Going back on our commitment to the businesses who contributed funds to pay for grant applications sends the wrong signal to the private sector about state government’s willingness to stand by its commitments.  We should see the study through to its conclusion with a fully functioning Rail Authority so that we can make informed policy choices about the best way forward for our state.

Concerns about specific provisions in the Rail Authority statute could have been addressed through much more narrowly drafted language that would leave intact important functions of the rail authority.  As currently written, this legislation takes away the rail authority’s ability to enter into contracts with partner organizations, to accept gifts and to work with the private sector on economic development projects adjacent to potential rail sites.

Given the strong concerns among New Hampshire business leaders that this legislation will jeopardize their efforts to grow their businesses and create new jobs, I am vetoing House Bill 218.

NHIA campus continues to expand

Future NHIA Student Center, formerly the Franco-American Centre, Amherst Street - photo from the Hippo

The Hippo is reporting that the NHIA will be converting the building that formerly housed the Franco-American Centre into a new student center.  This is great news for the Institute and the city.

Over the past decade, NHIA has expanded its scope, footprint and influence in the city, and in turn it has made downtown a more vibrant place to visit, live and work.  The Franco-American Centre building on Concord Street will now join several of downtown’s most handsome, pre-war civic buildings around Victory Park as the heart of NHIA’s campus.  In addition to these refurbished buildings, the campus includes two of downtown’s most prominent contemporary buildings, both additions to existing buildings on Amherst and Lowell Streets.

Continue reading

Unlovable: Budget struggle continues as state downshifts costs

Over the past few months, LivableMHT has discussed the shortsightedness and dangers of the budget proposed by Mayor Gatsas, including closing the West Side library and reducing bus service.  Things aren’t looking good as the deadline for the aldermen to produce an alternative budget looms: the Union Leader is reporting that while a majority of aldermen voted for a more sensible budget last night, there weren’t enough votes to overcome a mayoral veto.

The mayor and aldermen are in a tight spot, and neither deserve derision for their efforts to produce a budget that balances increased costs, declining revenue, a loss of state assistance and maintaining vital services.  Certainly, both could do better, but the real blame lies with negligence from Concord.  Despite New Hampshire having one of the lowest unemployment rates, highest median incomes and lowest taxes (not to mention among the most inequitable tax burdens), the current legislature is doing all it can to ensure that services are underfunded and costs downshifted to cities and towns.  This means that Manchester is losing much needed assistance from the state, so while both the budgets proposed by the mayor and aldermen include tax increases, both also cut services and city amenities.

Continue reading

Help for Springfield

Damage from a tornado that struck downtown Springfield, Mass. - photo by the Assocatied Press

As most people are probably aware, a series of tornadoes tore through western Massachusetts yesterday.  Particularly damaging was a tornado that struck downtown Springfield, a city whose library bears a striking resemblance to Manchester’s City Library.

The tornados rolled through the dense Connecticut River city, which has been enjoying a recent resurgence somewhat similar to Manchester’s, on the same day the New York Times reported on how and why federal policy usually overlooks urban issues and needs.  Cities need greater support from all levels, even in relatively rural and suburban states like New Hampshire, not only but especially in times of crisis and emergency.

At the moment, Springfield needs the help of all those who can afford to offer it, not only for all those suffering, injured and left homeless by yesterday’s violent storm, but to help a once-struggling city rebuild.  If you can, please donate to the Red Cross Pioneer Valley Chapter or other organizations offering assistance to our neighbors in the Springfield area.

Visit redcross.org or call 1-800-RED-CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

Contributions may also be sent to the American Red Cross Pioneer Valley Chapter at 506 Cottage St., Springfield, MA 01104 or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.