New Hampshire Mayor Presents Budget While Self-Isolating

Manchester, N.H., Mayor Joyce Craig delivered her budget address remotely from her home, where she and her family are in self-isolation after her daughter Sarah, 20, tested positive Saturday for COVID-19.

by Paul Feely, The New Hampshire Union Leader / March 31, 2020

(TNS) — Manchester, N.H., Mayor Joyce Craig presented her budget for fiscal year 2021 Monday night, a spending proposal she said includes “sound strategic investments” in Manchester while moving the city forward.

The mayor’s proposed FY 2021 budget comes in at $366.7 million. It includes $163 million in spending on the city side and $183 million for the school district.

Craig delivered her budget address remotely from her home, where she and her family are in self-isolation after her daughter Sarah, 20, tested positive Saturday for COVID-19. Craig was also tested; her results came back negative, she said.

A spokesman said the mayor and her family were all “doing well” on Monday, with no changes in their health status.

“When I first began preparing this budget, it was clear Manchester’s fiscal health was strong,” said Craig. “And while we’re faced today with implications of COVID-19 that are beyond our control, this budget enables us to address our challenges, and once this pandemic is over, continue to move our city forward. In addition to funding for the city’s public health and safety response to COVID-19, this budget focuses on investments in capital projects, infrastructure, and public safety, while also ensuring funds are allocated to support the future of the city — our students.”

Craig’s budget operates within the 2.1% tax increase outlined in the voter-approved tax cap; that offers about $4.6 million in additional property tax revenue over the previous fiscal year. Craig’s proposal contains a .049% increase in property taxes, resulting in tax rate increasing 12 cents from $24.32 to $24.44.

In her address, Craig said her proposed budget represents an increase of just under $1.1 million in property tax revenue because the expenditure cap only allows her to appropriate $4 million of the $7.5 million available in State Adequate Education Aid to the school district. “This results in $3.5 million of State Adequate Education Aid unavailable to the school district in my budget,” said Craig. “The Board of Aldermen can rectify this situation by appropriating the $3.5 million of State Adequate Education Aid to the School District for FY21. And in doing so, the budget will still be within the cap of 2.1%”

The Board of School Committee submitted a tax-cap compliant budget request of $183 million, which is included in Craig’s budget, reflecting an additional $3.765 million in funds to city schools, the maximum allowed by the expenditure cap. If city aldermen were to appropriate the $3.5 million of State Adequate Education Aid earmarked for the school district, Craig said, the school district’s budget would come in at $186.5 million, which falls within the 2.1% cap.

“It’s a pivotal time to positively impact public education, and our community is rallying around the cause,” said Craig. “With the adoption of the Manchester Proud plan, a new school board that’s focused on policy, and a superintendent — Dr. Goldhardt — whose vision is focused on raising the bar and lowering the barriers for all students, we are making positive strides forward. And this budget provides opportunities for continued progress.”

Craig’s school budget of $183 million covers all current programming and staff, and funds all collective bargaining contracts and salary agreements, including teachers. The budget invests $1.1 million in technology to improve infrastructure and increase access to devices, while providing for athletic uniforms, supplies and equipment as well as Student Services supplies, protocols and training. It also includes three professional development days for teachers, and $180,000 for one-time classroom supplies.

Craig’s budget includes a $3.395 million increase for the city side of the budget over Fiscal Year 2020. Non-property tax revenue is projected to increase $1 million over the last fiscal year.

“In partnership with the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, the city of Manchester will embark upon a strategic planning process to unify systems and large-scale interventions designed to address mental and behavioral health, homelessness and addiction,” said Craig. “Within this work, we’ll also be carving out a roadmap to improve the lives and well-being of our City’s greatest asset – our youth.”Craig said the city will use a three-year grant from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to hire an epidemiologist to deal with the incidence, distribution and possible control of COVID-19, and other public health needs. Craig has allocated $125,000 to the health department’s reserve account in her FY’21 budget, bringing the total reserve to $250,000.

Craig’s budget allocates $35,000 toward the city’s summer reading program and allocates $50,000 toward purchasing more books at the city library, marking the first time in over 10 years the city has increased the appropriation for library books.

The budget proposal also includes $14 million of bonded funds on the city side including a proposal to bond $4 million for the construction of the new road corridor connecting Elm Street to So. Commercial Street. The funding will support design, land acquisition, and construction to develop a new passageway allowing for easier access to the So. Commercial Street area, while alleviating congestion on Granite Street.

“Right now, our city is faced with a challenge beyond our control,” said Craig. “But, it will not last forever. I want you to know that I, along with the aldermen, school board and city and school district employees, are working diligently to respond to this pandemic in real-time, while continuing to plan for the future in an uncertain time. Manchester is a city known for our grit and determination. By being there for one another, by looking out for each other, we will persevere.”

©2020 The New Hampshire Union Leader (Manchester, N.H.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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