Special Interests Infect City’s Aldermanic Budget Process

by Jerry Thibodeau (R) Manchester GOP

To paraphrase President Ronald Reagan; [during the budget process] we hear much from special interest groups. Our concern must be for a special interest group that has been too long neglected…We the People.

Sitting in the Aldermanic chambers a couple weeks ago were departmental interests in the City’s budget, more specifically Mayor Guinta’s budget proposal. Their interests were special to their own needs, and not the people’s. Whether it be the Parks and Recreation department telling us why their needs were more special than other departments; or the Teacher’s Union telling children to testify or musical instruments will be ripped from their lives; or simply concerns that some other department somewhere did not get what they wanted from the great budget Santa on Christmas Day.

When a departmental manager is asked by the Aldermen to run an efficient and balanced budget, the requests are often answered byspending all dollars allocated and ask for more. This is not how you run a household, a business, or a city department.

It was poorly transparent that the Parks & Recreation & School Departments represented an infection of budgetary irresponsibility. Like any infection we must medicate.

As a reasonable man, Mayor Frank Guinta has provided leadership in supplying the medicine through necessary allocations to each genre of the city budget, keeping in mind the taxpayers. Therefore, Guinta’s budget is responsible. What it lacks is the Christmas wish-list fulfillment these departments cry about every year. With Guinta we know our properties are being taxed, our monies spent, for the needs of the community not the whims of mid-level bureaucrats.

Interestingly enough, at that very same hearing Alderman Ted Gatsas asked a simple question about budgeting and ‘books’ of the Private-Public Partnership on Mammoth Road ‘The Derryfield CountryClub.’ Gatsas was clear with his thinking – the people put up the risk and funding like stockholders; why is it not possible to expect the Parks and Rec department to report things like projected revenue, costs and profitability. The two assignees speaking for the department were confused and responded that they don’t see the need to report those things and are running in accordance with their understanding of a municipal program. This mindset needs to change! A special thanks to Alderman Gatsas and Mayor Guinta for elaborating the problems with this mindset.

It is obvious the departments need a few business classes so that their budget will not raise our taxes. Mayor Guinta was elected on the platform to address this mindset and has done just that. Since the last election he has steadily targeted the dysfunctional nature of the city’s budget --- thankfully we can see this dialog taking place in last year’s and this year’s budget process. Mayor Guinta’s ’06 and ’07 budgets were the first since ’99 that were proposed with reduction in taxes, thank you Frank!

Speaking of taking business classes - on top of the Parks and Rec reporting errors, we also heard from teenagers who were told that this budget would cut their music departments. I think teachers will need a few lessons as well. Apparently some teachers, not all, have assigned certain parts of their departments’ testimonial to students across the city –specifically those who use musical instruments. So we heard from children asking that Guinta’s budget not cut music classes; and the attributes that would be lost if the budget passed. Let’s be very, very clear– the budget is run and operated by the Superintendent of Schools –not the Mayor of Manchester. In fact, since last year Mayor Guinta’s commitment to education was seen with an increase of $1.5million. He promised to deliver to our children’s education– not the whims of this department as well. It is the School Department that has targeted Music – not City Hall.

The Parks and Recreation Department believes the problem with their budget lies within City Hall, the School Department also believes the problem with their budget lies within City Hall. The fact is, the budget lies with the taxpayers, whom have elected one man to hold the line on taxes and spending. It is because of Frank Guinta’s budget proposals that we have seen taxpayer protection two years in a row.

Can you imagine if either of these departments’ budget managers controlled the entire city budget during revaluations last year?