Mayor provides first look at FY 2025 budget proposal

Sign Up For Our FREE Daily eNews!

427667743 397869816223362 8338310480031845135 n
Mayor Jay Ruais. File Photo/Jeffrey Hastings

A full copy of the proposed budget can be found here.


MANCHESTER, NH – Mayor Jay Ruais on Thursday delivered his FY 2025 budget address before a special meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.

Ruais outlined the “tough fiscal challenges” facing the city this budget cycle. The hiring freeze will continue for non-emergency personnel until “our fiscal condition dictates otherwise,” Ruais said. He proposed in this budget a reduction in bonding by 10%, “in order to keep our debt service low so as not to burden future generations of Manchester residents.”

The proposed budget includes providing for Cost-of-Living Adjustments (COLA), merits, longevities, and retirement benefits for city workers.

Ruais also highlighted the school budget, saying “we were able to invest an additional $1 million into our School District. The $227 million we are proposing to allocate this evening represents the most ever allocated by the City of Manchester.”

With regard to public safety and first responders:

  • Funding Fusus and ShotSpotter
  • mental health clinician for Manchester Police Department
  • 10 police officers previously funded by the federal government.
  • $100,000 request from the fire department to provide protective gear

On homelessness, Ruais is allocating money from the FY 2025 CDBG and ESG programs to

  • Families in Transition which will receive $70,000 for family emergency housing,
  • WayPoint will receive $89,000 for their homeless youth shelter,
  • YWCA will receive $70,000 for Emily’s Place and
  • 1269 Café will receive $50,000 to double their residential room capacity.

“ARPA has fully funded the engagement center since its inception and those funds run out on June 30. I don’t believe cities should be in the shelter business, and we do not have the resources to fund this in the long term. We should take this opportunity to transition from a city-run shelter, to that of a nonprofit,” Ruais said.

“What I am proposing today is that we take a portion of the ARPA money we have left to build a transitional bridge to the nonprofit that will take over. This is an important strategy allowing us to address these real challenges without having the taxpayer bear the full burden.”

Ruais outlined the need to plan for the future: “This budget is a governing document. And throughout its construction, I constantly asked, where do we want to see Manchester in 5-10-15 years and where can we make the investment today to get there.”

With that in mind, he highlighted the importance of infrastructure, roads, sidewalks, parks, youth sports and bringing the community together:

  • Investing $5.3 million in road infrastructure and improvements around the city. Well-maintained roads not only improve commute times but also contribute to economic development.
  • Allocating $1 million toward sidewalk maintenance and upgrades promoting pedestrian safety and accessibility. Sidewalks are vital for creating a more pedestrian-friendly environment.
  • Investing $1 million in park renovations, upgrades, and maintenance that benefits the community by providing recreational spaces for residents of all ages to enjoy. This includes significant playground renovations at Livingston, Wolfe and Howe Parks. Parks contribute to public health, social cohesion, and environmental sustainability, making them essential assets for any city.

“Building off the theme of Manchester’s next generation and using our parks as a catalyst to grow our civic pride, we have identified youth sports as an important function of this. I’m thrilled to announce that we are allocating $200,000 for a league partnership program to further upgrade specific parks in which our youth sports are active,” Ruais said.

“If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times, ours is a city filled with undeniable and unquantifiable promise, and this budget responsibly funds our potential. Let us remember the core values that unite us as citizens of Manchester. Let us not falter in our commitment to investing in our community while ensuring every resident has the opportunity to thrive. Let us seize the opportunities that lie ahead, harnessing the collective strength of our diverse and vibrant city. And, as Bill Belichick would require of us- let us continue to do our jobs in service to the people of Manchester. I am confident that with prudent management and the dedication of our citizens, Manchester will continue to prosper and flourish. “

FY 2025 Budget Highlights

5.6% Allowable Tax Cap:

  • Mayor’s Budget-3.86%
  • 1.77% under the allowable tax cap

Municipal Spending:

  • Total City Spending- $189,153, 835
  • Covered a $1.7 million surplus deficit from prior years’ one-time fund use
  • Covered $1.4 million in increased Healthcare Costs over plan
  • Eliminated $600,000 in unfunded vacancies
  • Eliminated $792,957 from Cash CIP Project line
  • Did not fund $1,839,748 in department requests
  • Continued the hiring freeze for all but emergency requests
  • Reduced bonding by 10%
  • No city employee layoffs
  • Did not expand the city staff compliment
  • Level-funded city departments while providing for 4% COLAS, Merits, longevities and retirements

School District:

  • Increased budget $1 million from $226,982,601 to $227,982,601 The most ever allocated by the city
  • Capital Improvements: Roads, Sidewalks, Parks and City Fleet:
  • $5.3 million in road infrastructure and improvements
  • $1 million towards sidewalk maintenance and upgrades$1 million in park renovations, upgrades and maintenance
  • $3 million in upgrades to city fleet including MTA, Police, Fire and Highway Departments

Affordable Housing:

  • Allocates $1.65 million of federal funds to help construct 45 units of affordable housing on the Pearl Street parking lot.
  • CDBG and ESG Programs to End Homelessness:
  • Families in Transition receives $70,000 for family emergency housing
  • WayPoint receives $89,000 for their homeless youth shelter
  • YWCA receives $70,000 for Emily’s Place
  • 1269 Café receives $50,000 to double their residential rooms

Community Improvement Program:

  • Funding to a league partnership program to further upgrade specific parks in which our youth sports are active: $200,000
  • Funding to Manchester Police Athletic League CHOICES program: $50,000
  • Funding to Hillsborough County Child Advocacy: $20,000
  • Funding to Manchester Community Resource Center: $110,000
  • Funding to Meals on Wheels: $42,000
  • Funding to Fun in the Sun for summer camp for students in grades 1 to 7: $100,000
  • Funding for six agencies to provide youth services counseling: $150,000

First Responders:

  • Protected 10 police officer positions currently funded by expiring federal COPS grant program
  • Hired 6 additional police officers since January 2nd
  • Funding the mental health clinician for our police officers
  • $100,000 for much-needed firefighter protective gear

A copy of Ruais’ speech can be found below.


 

DSC 6914
Mayor Jay Ruais on March 28, 2024. Photo/Andrew Sylvia

 

Ladies and gentlemen, esteemed colleagues, and citizens of

Manchester.

I stand before you this evening to present the FY 25 City of

Manchester budget address.

A special thanks goes to Sharon Wickens, our Finance Director, Michelle Bogardus, our Deputy Finance Director, Jeff Belanger, Director of Planning, and Todd Fleming, our Grants Administrative Manager. Your dedication and hard work have been instrumental in shaping the financial future of our city.

I recently used all of the “spare time” I have to watch The Dynasty, the documentary about the New England Patriots success during the Brady/Belichick era.

While it brings me to tears thinking about our recent troubles, there was one theme that we should all take to heart.

Their success was directly attributable to their instilling of a value that no one person was more important than the team.

They all subordinated their desire to achieve individually, to that of the team’s success. That is a lesson we should all internalize. No one person is more important than our city. We do not need to engage in constant conflict- we are not here for that – we were not elected for that.

In these four walls, we work. We don’t always have to agree, but we are going to arrive at solutions that move our city forward.

With that as a backdrop, I’m thrilled with the progress we’ve made on this budget. As I was putting this together, I consulted with Chairman Levasseur, and Alderman Long, and we have agreed that this is a strong bipartisan framework that sets the stage for smooth enactment as it goes to the Board of Aldermen.

I appreciate both of your efforts, and leadership in our city and thank you for your collaboration. This is a realistic, comprehensive budget that addresses our challenges while planning for future growth and financial health.

I’m not interested in the politics or the posturing of the budget cycle, my interest lies solely in getting things done. We have too much to accomplish and too little time to get it done.

When I was sworn in I started a conversation with the city about the difficult nature of this budget cycle. When I started reviewing the initial draft budget proposal, the city side alone represented a 4.57% increase in spending. When combined with the School District’s request, the total spending increase would have reached 7.23%. When adding in the City departmental additional needs requests, we were staring down the barrel of an 8.25% increase in spending, which far surpasses the 5.63% allowed by the tax cap. With a lot of hard work and tough decisions, we were able to cut that number down to 3.86%. This represents total municipal spending of $189,153,835. Recognizing these realities, we must acknowledge the financial constraints we face.

Looking back, the previous year brought with it a noteworthy boost to our city’s coffers, amounting to $4.5 million in new revenue. The current fiscal year has unfolded quite differently, presenting us with a significantly smaller amount of $166,373 in new revenue. This stark contrast sets the stage for a difficult shift in our financial landscape.

Last year the decision was made to use $1.7 million in one time surplus funds from our departments to keep our tax rate low. This decision requires this year’s budget to account for this one- time revenue and places a burden on our financial standing.

We are also facing a historically high 4% Cost of Living Adjustment for our city workers. Over the last 25 years, these COLA’s have routinely been 1-2% so this greatly increases our required expenditures.

In addition to this hole, is the exploding cost of healthcare.  In this we are not alone, as the Union Leader recently reported many of our surrounding towns and cities are facing significant increases. In Bedford, they are facing an 18% increase in costs, in Londonderry costs have spiked by 19.3% in one year.

Here in Manchester, we are currently projecting a $1.4 million overrun in healthcare costs, amplifying our financial predicament. When combined with the $1.7 million hole I previously mentioned, we have a daunting $3.1 million shortfall.

In early April, our healthcare partners will appear before the Board, in part, to discuss both the challenges and successes we’ve had in containing health care costs, as well as some ideas for future cost control measures.

To unpack this $1.4 million number, it is important to give you some perspective. To date, in FY24, the City’s health care plans cover approximately 2,817 lives per month. Through December

of 2023, the City has spent a total of $12.7 million on healthcare, and of that, 20% or $2.6 million dollars has been spent on less than 1% of our covered population.

A lesson my wife has taught me is to never complain without a plan, so I’d like to offer a proposal tonight.

Thank you to our incredible H.R. Director Lisa Drabik, who in consultation with our healthcare advisor, has suggested an ordinance change to incentivize our city workers to attend preventative health care appointments.

This will allow an employee to identify a health issue earlier, potentially saving their life, while also reducing the financial burden that health conditions inevitably cost when caught at later stages.

We will realize a healthier workforce and reduce spending on healthcare as well as replacement costs for sick employees who are absent. This suggested ordinance change is in the budget materials and I will fully support it when it comes up for discussion.

As we delve into the finer details of this year’s budget, we had to make some difficult decisions to reduce the bottom line.

In previous years, the city funded vacant positions year after year. In these tough fiscal times, we can not continue this practice. We have reduced these vacancies by $600,000. Let me be clear, if there is an emergency position that needs to be funded, the department can come to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen and make a request.

Additionally, this budget eliminates $792,957 from the Cash CIP project line, and we did not fund $1,839,748 in department requests.

Also, this budget funds no new city positions, and our hiring freeze will continue until our fiscal condition dictates otherwise.

These measures will get us through our annual budget, but we must also set our city up for long term fiscal health. In this budget, I am proposing we cut bonding by 10% in order to keep our debt service low and not burden Manchester’s future generations with excessive borrowing.

Even in these difficult times, we maintain level funding for every department, ensuring that essential services are met, including expense obligations. This includes providing for Cost of Living Adjustments, merits, longevities, and retirement benefits for our city workers. This is reflective of our commitment to the dedicated individuals contributing to the success of our city.

Our budget is prioritizing that which is essential to our city. And with that in mind, I’m pleased to say that even with the fiscal realities of this budget, we were able to invest an additional $1 million into our School District. The $227 million we are proposing to allocate this evening represents the highest amount ever funded by the City of Manchester. While this does not fully fund the Board of School Committee’s request, I am confident this compromise will meet the needs of the School District.

The safety of our city is non-negotiable, and I will never jeopardize the security of our citizens.

First, I’d like to thank the leadership of Chief Allen Aldenberg, Assistant Chief Peter Marr, and all of the men and women of the Manchester Police Department. It is no stretch to say we put our lives in your hands every day, and we are extremely grateful for your service. You have our backs, and this budget has yours.

In 2020, the City of Manchester was granted funding through the COPS hiring grant, allowing us to employ an additional 10 police officers. These men and women are invaluable, upholding the safety and security of our community, patrolling our neighborhoods, and responding swiftly.

Unfortunately, the grant funding these officers is expiring. But I am pleased to announce that this budget keeps these heroes in our city.

On this point, since the beginning of this year, we have hired an additional six police officers, bolstering our law enforcement presence and fortifying our commitment to creating a safer environment for all residents.

The Manchester Police Department continues to be a leader in leveraging technology to make our community safer. Over the past three years, MPD has implemented Fusus, a public-private video integration technology, and ShotSpotter to better enable response, investigation, and resolution of crime incidents in the City.  These two programs have been successful and contribute to the overall safety of Manchester and I am proud to report we are funding them in this budget.

Mental health continues to be a top priority for Manchester Police, both in ensuring wellness for our employees and assisting those in the community with mental illness. Internally,

Manchester PD is leading the way in creating a culture that prioritizes mental health and wellness for our officers. In 2023

Manchester Police contracted with a full-time mental health clinician to provide the highest level of support. These efforts

have resulted in unprecedented engagement by our officers and staff.  MPD is taking care of our officers and working to ensure

long and successful careers. Our budget protects this critical resource for our police officers.

I would also like to thank Chief Ryan Cashin and the entire team at Manchester Fire Department. Your unwavering commitment to serving our community from fighting fires, to responding to overdoses and medical emergencies, is deeply appreciated as is your continued service to our city.

In 2023, the department received 28,806 calls for service and 55,364 units were deployed. This equates to receiving a call every 20 minutes of every day for 365 days a year, without complaint and without regard to their safety. Ensuring those that protect us have the proper protective gear that provides for their safety and ours is the utmost importance. And our budget accordingly covers their $100,000 request to do so.

As we discuss the intricacies of this year’s budget, I find it imperative to address a critical issue that has been of significant concern within our community—homelessness. I would like to start by thanking Adrienne Beloin, Director of Housing Stability for her efforts to combat this crisis.

I would also like to thank the entire Board of Mayor and Aldermen for your work on this challenging issue. Your commitment to end this crisis, and work together sets a great example for our community. We are not where we want to be, but we will make progress on this issue.

I’d like to specifically thank Alderwoman Kelly Thomas and Alderman Bill Barry who have taken the lead as Chair and Vice- Chair respectively of the Special Committee on Alcohol, Other Drugs and Youth Services.

Lastly, I would like to thank Alderman Goonan and Kantor for their service in the Continuum of Care as our representatives from the BMA.

We are fortunate to have a number of community partners assisting in the effort to fix this crisis, and we will continue our city’s support for them.

From prevention to case management, to sheltering, to transitional living, job placement, mental health and substance use disorder treatment, our support runs the continuum.

This budget allocates money from the FY 25 Community Development Block Grant program and Emergency Solution Grant to support those working to end homelessness.

Families in Transition will receive $70,000 for family emergency housing, WayPoint will receive $89,000 for their homeless youth shelter, and YWCA will receive $70,000 for Emily’s Place.

We need to break the reliance on emergency shelter beds, get people out of homelessness, and help them build a sustainable life. That’s why we are allocating $50,000 to 1269 Cafe to finish their project efforts doubling their residential rooms from 12 to 24.

Additional CBDG funding will support a variety of programs:

  • $110,000 to Manchester Community Resource Center to provide employment training to 325 adults and 17 youth.
  • $42,000 to Meals on Wheels Hillsborough County to provide meals and support to 225 homebound elderly individuals.
  • $150,000 of funding provided to 6 agencies to offer youth services/counseling to 1,040 individuals.
  • $100,000 for Fun in the Sun- a summer camp servicing

Manchester kids in grades 1 through 7.

After visiting the Cashin Senior Center and speaking to those in attendance, we are restarting the Mayor’s Seniors Luncheon and have planned $15,000 for this in our budget. We can’t wait to be with you next Spring! Of course, this is contingent upon them inviting me back to enjoy their Wii Bowling Hour which I

barely missed the last time that I went.

Since the pandemic, local government has been flooded with the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, and we have a responsibility to wean ourselves off of these dollars and not burden taxpayers.

ARPA has fully funded the engagement center since its inception; and those funds run out on June 30th. I don’t believe cities should be in the shelter business, and we do not have the resources as a city to fund this in the long-term. We should take this opportunity to transition from a city run shelter, to that of a nonprofit.

I have already been in touch with members of the nonprofit community about this, and I look forward to working with our community to make this a successful effort.

What I am proposing today is that we take a portion of the remaining ARPA money to build a transitional bridge to the nonprofit that will take over. This budget allocates resources to take us to at least the end of November when a transition will take place. This is an important strategy allowing us to address these real challenges without having the taxpayer bear the full burden.

Lastly, I heard the concerns of the Board of Alderman and Chief Aldenberg about the need to upgrade security measures at the engagement center. I have long advocated for increasing the security of the engagement center and I agree with the

consensus. After consultation with the MPD, I am proposing tonight to allocate $22,100 towards security upgrades at this facility to include but not limited to handheld metal detectors, security lockers for proper storage of belongings, as well as external and internal security measures.

In this budget, we are allocating $1.65 million of federal funds to help construct 45 units of affordable housing on the Pearl Street parking lot. The money would go to Neighborworks, a well-established developer of affordable housing with a history of success in Manchester. This money will allow them to leverage more than $10 million in additional funds to complete the project.

To truly attack our quality of life issues like homelessness, crime, substance use disorder and other behavioral health issues

we can’t just apply bandaids; we must go upstream and implement prevention programs. For that reason, we are allocating $50,000 to the Welfare Department to help prevent individuals from falling into homelessness. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

I would like to reference two additional prevention programs that go hand and hand with this strategic approach.

The Manchester Police Athletic League recently started a program called “CHOICES” to reduce criminal behavior among  at-risk youth while showing them pathways to success through mentorship and exposure to available options. These youths are engaged in career exploration  and introduced to educational opportunities, fostering a sense of possibility and getting support for self-improvement. This budget will be the first time this program is funded by the city and we are allocating $50,000 in CIP funding to this incredible cause.

This budget also fully funds the request of $20,000 in CIP dollars for the Hillsborough County Child Advocacy Center. Their work reduces trauma suffered by child victims of abuse by creating a child-friendly, victim-centered safe place where children can talk to a trained professional forensic interviewer about their abuse and streamline the investigation process through the coordination of the multidisciplinary team of professionals. This is an increase in funding over last year’s budget.

I have visited both of these programs and know that what they are doing is nothing short of life changing.

Everything we do as elected officials should be with an eye towards the future, planting the seeds for success.

This budget is a governing document. And throughout its construction, I constantly asked, where do we want to see Manchester in 5-10-15 years and where can we make the investment today to get there?

How do we attract residents, businesses and visitors to the

Queen City?

How do we prepare our city to address the needs of a growing community?

One way is to ensure our city’s buildings and fleet of cars are in tip top shape.

  • We have invested $3 million for motorized equipment replacement funding Manchester Transit Authority, police, fire and highway department vehicles ensuring our city fleet is up and running efficiently.

Another way to attract folks is to give our city a facelift. Our budget includes CDBG funding for the reintroduction of the Facade Improvement Program, a successful initiative from the late 2000’s and early 2010’s.

This program will incentivize property owners and commercial tenants to invest in exterior enhancements, thereby enriching the aesthetic appeal and marketability of Manchester’s downtown and neighborhood commercial districts. The primary objective is to encourage upgrades to business storefronts and signage, boosting property value and facilitating the rental or leasing of commercial spaces.

This program will be administered by the Manchester Economic Development Office run by Director Jodie Nazaka and Deputy Director Eric Lesniak. Not a week goes by when I don’t hear about the outstanding work being done by this office, and I can’t thank them enough for their incredible dedication to our city and businesses.

Over the last year, I heard a lot about the need to continue to improve our roads, sidewalks and parks. These critical investments in infrastructure are crucial for the long-term growth and sustainability of our city; they demonstrate a commitment to enhancing quality of life for residents and attracting new families to the area.

We have heard these concerns and tonight we are acting accordingly.

I would like to thank DPW Director Tim Clougherty, Deputy Director Owen Friend-Gray, and all of the men and women at DPW for their efforts in our city.

I have gone with them to clean up graffiti, plow our streets, and hang on for dear life picking up trash on the back of a dump truck. Don’t tell anyone but they let me drive the truck too. While I only spent a few hours doing this difficult work, it was long enough to build a deep and abiding respect for everything they do to keep our city clean.

I’m proud to announce the following capital improvements:

  1. We are investing $5.3 million in road infrastructure and improvements around the city. No one likes having to drive

around potholes, or worse, damaging your car by hitting one, and this also contributes to our economic development.

  1. We are allocating $1 million towards sidewalk maintenance and upgrades promoting pedestrian safety and accessibility.

Sidewalks are vital for creating a more pedestrian-friendly environment.

  1. And we are investing $1 million in park renovations, upgrades, and maintenance that benefits the community by providing recreational spaces for residents of all ages to enjoy. This includes significant playground renovations at Livingston, Wolfe and Howe Parks. Parks contribute to public health, social cohesion, and environmental sustainability, making them essential assets for any city.
  1. Mindful of Manchester’s next generation and our parks as a catalyst for growing civic pride, we identified youth sports as an important function. Thank you to Aldermen Morgan and O’Neil for your leadership on this effort. I would also like to thank Aldermen Burkush for your efforts with our office to highlight the collaboration between youth sports and our parks and because of that we are allocating $200,000 for a league partnership program to further upgrade specific parks in which our youth sports are active.

These investments quite literally lay the foundation for a vibrant and sustainable community for years to come.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times, ours is a city filled with undeniable and unquantifiable promise, and this budget responsibly funds our potential.

Let us remember the core values that unite us as citizens of Manchester.

Let us not falter in our commitment to investing in our community while ensuring every resident has the opportunity to thrive.

Let us seize the opportunities that lie ahead, harnessing the collective strength of our diverse and vibrant city.

And, as Bill Belichick would require of us- let us continue to do our jobs in service to the people of Manchester.

I am confident that with prudent management and the dedication of our citizens, Manchester will continue to prosper and flourish.

Thank you and have a great evening.

About this Author

Manchester Ink Link Staff