Manchester a winner in state budget deal

Manchester Ink Link
Laura Aronson
Friday, September 27, 2019

Sept. 25 House session. Screenshot

MANCHESTER, NH — New Hampshire now has a budget for the next two years, and Manchester comes out a winner. On September 25, after a three-month stalemate, a compromise state budget was passed in the House and Senate and was signed by Governor Chris Sununu.

Manchester will receive a total increase of $21.2 million over the biennium, including $15.25 million in increased education funding and $5.9 million in new municipal aid funding. The education funding increase includes $3.57 million in fiscal year 2020 and $11.68 million in fiscal year 2021. The total education funding over the biennium is $170.616 million. (These numbers are preliminary and actual expenditures may change slightly.)

Full-day kindergarten, special education, school transportation, and building aid are all fully funded, and reliance on Keno money was eliminated.

The state budget also boosted funding for health and human services that are heavily utilized in the city.

Mayor Joyce Craig released the following statement after the budget vote was announced:

“Our community is stronger when we work together. The state budget compromise demonstrates the positive impact we can have when we put our differences aside to do what’s in the best interest of Granite Staters. Through smart investments in education, mental health, and substance use disorder treatment, this budget will have a tremendous impact on the lives of Manchester residents. 

I especially want to thank Senators Soucy, D’Allesandro, and Cavanaugh; and the Manchester House delegation for their support of this budget that will provide the Queen City with an increase of more than $23 million in state aid over the next two years.

State Rep. Mary Heath, D-Manchester District 14, praised the budget as “solid.”

“This is the best budget that’s come out of the General Court in years. As the citizens requested, we provided funding for education, health, and human services. I am so happy. We made a lot of concessions, but we worked together and the vote was solid,” Heath said.

Sununu’s agreement was contingent on tax deal

According to a news release by Concord-based New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute, an independent, non-partisan organization focused on public policy issues, the agreement was based, “in part by deploying current surplus revenues, including revenues from reduced spending and increased lapse during the continuing resolution.”

The NHFPI also concluded that funding would stem “in part from freezing business tax rates at 2019 levels,”  adding that “future business tax rates would be contingent on a revenue-based trigger and could move up or down for Tax Year 2021 depending on the strength of receipts during the first year of the budget biennium.”

Paid family leave was previously vetoed by the governor; a start-up appropriation for the program was removed from the budget.

One Manchester representative voted against the budget

The budget was approved by all three Manchester senators and the full Manchester House delegation except Rep. Mark Warden, R-Manchester, District 16.

“The overall budget is too much of an increase over the previous biennium. More fiscal restraint would have been appropriate. I am concerned about taxpayers, property owners and businesses; the budget compromise did not take them into account,” Warden said.

As to expectations that the budget may lower city taxes, “This is like taking money out of one pocket and putting it in another. Cities and towns should also exercise more restraint on the spending side and not count on state money for local issues. I’d like to see more local control whenever possible,” Warden said.

Boosted funding for health and human services to help city

Manchester will benefit from increased funding for health and human services:

Families in Transition of Manchester, which serves the homeless, will now have the funding to staff its 24-bed safe recovery shelter, which has been empty since completion in July and will open on October 1. It will serve between 200 and 250 people per year. While the allocation of the Medicaid rate increase is yet to be set by the state Health and Human Services commissioner, Stephanie Savard, Chief Operating Officer, said it will help the organization’s substance treatment unit on Wilson Street.

“We anticipate and hope it will impact the rates for outpatient services and intensive outpatient program,” Savard said. “This is significant and important. We appreciate it happened so we can continue moving forward with our services for the most vulnerable population in the state.”

Easterseals will also benefit from the new budget. Nancy Rollins, Chief Operating Officer, said the Medicaid rate increases will help their services, most of which are reimbursable. More than 2,000 people in Manchester in multiple generations utilize their Early Supports and Services, Childhood Development Center, Autism Program, workforce development, veterans services, oral health program, the Farnum Center, and the youth residential treatment program.

Rep. Patricia Cornell, D-Manchester, District 18, said, “Many of the provisions for health and human services will have a positive impact on Manchester residents, including and funding for additional Mobil Crisis Units, suicide prevention, Safe Stations, and transitional housing.”

Budget avoids shutdown and tax bill problems

As a result of passing the budget there will be no shutdown of state government services. In the absence of a new budget, the state was operating on a three-month continuing resolution that extended the old budget until October 1. Without an agreement, non-essential state services would have shut down on that date. The new budget takes effect on October 1 and ensures the uninterrupted delivery of services.

Local tax bills will go out on time. With the budget in a state of flux, the amount of funding cities and towns would have received from the state was uncertain. In the absence of an approved budget, communities wouldn’t have known exactly how much money to expect from the state for education, revenue sharing, and other line items where money is received from the state. This would have forced many communities, including Manchester, to send out higher property tax bills based on the assumptions of the old budget. Along with the looming expiration of the continuing resolution, this scenario provided incentive for both sides to cut a deal.

Other provisions

Increases are included for funding the state university system and the state community college system, along with tuition freezes that will make college more affordable.

The state’s minimum age for smoking and vaping has been raised to 19.

A new housing appeals board at the state level will allow individuals or developers to appeal decisions by local boards or committees.

Read more here.

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