Aldermen delivered their promise of lowering the expected deficit to balance the 2019-2020 budget, with the exception of funds dedicated to grants.
Manchester’s Chief Financial Officer Bridget Anderson surprised aldermen with news – she managed to completely balance a second version of the budget and leave in raises by cutting capital equipment from many of the departments’ budgets.
This means the Finance Committee has two budgets in front of them. Anderson needs to meet with the department heads to see if her cuts would be viable for them before aldermen can pick with document they prefer.
In both budgets, the revenue streams from property taxes and insurance costs are still unknown. These will further affect the budget once Anderson has concrete numbers to put into the document.
Anderson noted that the budgets in both cases are balanced, with the exception of grants. The total grant funds, about $300,000, are dedicated funds that are required by law to be reflected in the 2019-2020 budget. The city will only be spending a portion of the $300K next fiscal year.
Option one: cut raises
The first budget option does not include raises to city employees. When the Finance Committee last met on March 27, the budget deficit was about $624,000, which is more than 3 percent of the total budget.
Since then, Anderson met again with department heads to make cuts.
“We worked. We cut,” Anderson said. “Some of them are not very big, some are a good size.”
After the cuts, the deficit was down to $230K. Anderson explained tax revenues will lower that and if the Tourism Commission agrees to help pay $50K to held Parks and Recreation buy a new boiler or reel mower, the city should be in the clear.
“If that happens, we’re balanced except of the grants,” Anderson said.
Option two: offer raises
Anderson looked at the budget and did what she tries to do every year – make cuts herself to balance it. She explained sometime she can and others times, it’s more difficult. This year, she managed to save enough money to put back in the requested employee raises while balancing the budget. The department heads are not getting raises.
“I would have to go to the department heads and see if they could live with what was done in my projections,” Anderson said.
“It can be balanced except for the grants, which will come out of the reserves over the next few years,” she added.
Her process was going through all of the departments and nitpicking things. She cut out capital equipment – these funds roll over from previous years so departments will still have money for that. Her logic is that if something breaks, the city will need to replace it regardless.
Just like in the first option, her cuts lowered the deficit to $230K, which will be balanced out through revenue streams and if the Tourism Commission helps Parks and Recreation.
Anderson wanted to tackle this budget to give a chance for employees to get raises.
“I think they deserve them. When I was going through it, that was my main goal to don’t touch them,” Anderson said.
Once Anderson meets with department heads, it will be more clear which budget option the finance committee will decide to present to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.