The B word

I wanted to die when the I heard budget talks were starting so early. The daily grind of keeping up with the fights and the financials wore me down. I had to get it in here somehow. Wordies will like the involuntary resignation bit too. I know I did.

Gatsas wants early budget review, says its no election ploy

It may seem painfully early to start talking about the 2013 budget cycle, but Mayor Ted Gatsas recently told city department heads to have next year’s budget projections to him in the next few weeks. The mayor will bring the budget drafts to the aldermen as soon as he gets them, Gatsas said Thursday.

“The earlier we get the chance to start looking at this, the more we’re going to understand where we’re at,” said Gatsas. “I’d rather have eight months to try to resolve the problem than three.”

Early projections have pointed to a $22 million budget increase next year if all services and programs remain the same. This situation could worsen in light of hospital funding cuts that are expected to drive up medical costs and changes to the New Hampshire Retirement System enacted by the Legislature.

This early budget request happens to come during a city election year, and although Gatsas denies it’s a political move, the mayor is already practicing his budget talking points.

“Are we going to raise taxes by 14 percent or lay off police and firefighters?” Gatsas asked. The answer lies in the city unions’ willingness to open their contracts and offer concessions, he said.

“This is not something I haven’t been saying,” said Gatsas. “We need to start the discussion because I think people need to know how their elected officials are going to take care of it.”

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SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS heard an unfamiliar term last week: “involuntary resignation.” The term was used in reference to the departure of Human Resources Director Diane Lapointe, who ended her tenure with the school district on Aug. 3.

“I’d never heard of the term ‘involuntary resignation,’ ” said Committeeman Mike DeBlasi, who recalled “several occurrences” in the past year in which the quality of the school’s Human Resources Department’s work was called into question.

Superintendent of Schools Thomas Brennan would not comment on the reasons for the dismissal, but school board minutes and records show a history of procedural mistakes made with recent hirings, including incorrect job requirements listed on job postings and a failure to properly post positions.

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RESIDENTS WILL have a chance to weigh in on the proposed changes to the tax cap during a public hearing on Sept. 6. The hearing, to be held at 6 p.m. in the aldermanic chambers, is required before any charter amendment can be placed on the ballot.

The proposal would exempt from the cap departments and divisions that do not use property tax money to fund their budgets, such as the Airport Division, Parks and Recreation, Environmental Protection and Parking. It would also exclude money spent on bonds and would limit the percentage increase in the annual property tax rate to the three-year average increase in the Consumer Price Index.

The aldermen are likely to send this one to the November municipal ballot and let the voters decide — again — what kind of tax cap they want.
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THE CITY AND school district’s benefits consulting firm, Workplace Benefits Solutions, was purchased by HUB International, a Chicago-based firm. WBS will become part of the subsidiary Hub New England and will retain its local offices and employees. WBS heads David Larrivee and Tom DeLacey will serve as principal consultant/founder and principal consultant, respectively.

Human Resources Director Jane Gile said this doesn’t change the company’s relationship with the city or the “excellent service level provided.”

WBS advises the city on its health insurance contracts and looks for cost-savings measures. The company signed with the city in 2009, agreeing to a $20,000 annual fee, plus 25 percent of money it saves on the city’s behalf.

Bringing on WBS drew criticism from the aldermen because then-Mayor Frank Guinta put out the bid and selected WBS without alerting the board. Since then, WBS has advised the city on changing health insurance providers and smoothed over tense talks with Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Hampshire after the Caitlin Raymond International Registry charged thousands of dollars for bone marrow cheek swab tests at the mall.

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CENTRAL HIGH School Assistant Principal Ronald Mailhot’s promotion was made official on Monday when the school board voted to make the long-time educator Central’s interim principal. Superintendent Brennan said he will continue searching for a permanent principal throughout the next school year.

During that same meeting, Rachelle (Moore) Otero was hired to fill the principal post at Hallsville Elementary School. Otero was previously serving as the assistant principal at Green Acres Elementary School.

THE MANCHESTER Republican Committee fund-raising cookout scheduled for today at Theo’s Restaurant has been postponed. Committee Chairman Jeff Frost said the delay is due to conflicting candidate schedules. A new time and place will be announced soon.

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