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.)


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