Aldermanic panel pores over revenue projections

NASHUA – The aldermen’s budget review committee on Tuesday continued its task of poring through the proposed fiscal year 2010 budget department by department.

While Monday’s meeting concentrated solely on the school department, the committee on Tuesday wended through the requests of the community development, planning and zoning, building, code enforcement, urban programs, transit and fire departments.

One theme ran through the evening’s discussions: the difficulty of predicting revenue next year given the recession and uncertainty of when and if stimulus money will jump-start the economy.

That point especially became clear when aldermen questioned revenue projections for items such as building, electrical, mechanical and plumbing permits.

In each of those items, the Building Department had projected modest revenue increases for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1 and runs through June 30, 2010.

Building permits now appear to be leveling off after a decline, said Michael Findley, the Building Department manager.

“We’re hoping fiscal year 2010 will be no worse than 2009,” Findley said.

Likewise, there appears to be a “flattening out” of the slide in what the city takes in for the various fees and permits in the planning and zoning department, said Kathy Hersh, the community development director.

Reviews from that department for next year are budgeted for the same amount as in the current year – $180,025.

“That’s our best guess, and it is a guess, because we don’t know which way the economy is going to go,” Hersh said.

The budget review committee is sorting through the mayor’s proposed 2010 budget of $215.5 million, including special revenue and enterprise funds. The general fund portion of the budget totals $217.9 million, an increase of 2.3 percent from the current year.

The budget review committee is scheduled to meet again tonight immediately following a special Board of Aldermen meeting.

The committee won’t discuss recommending whether to make any reductions or increases in department spending until a wrap-up session after it completes its department-by-department review.

In response to an alderman’s question Tuesday, Fire Chief Brian Morrissey said that 92 percent of his department’s budget is made up of payroll and 8 percent for operating expenses.

While most city departments held spending increases to 1 percent, the fire department was one of three that the mayor permitted to come in with increases of 1.5 percent.