January 14 – Prepare to tighten your belt a little.
City and school budgets for the next fiscal year may increase by almost 5%.
Sharon Wickens, the city’s finance director, told councilors on Thursday the official tax cap, which is based on the average change in the consumer price index (CPI) over three years. Also on Thursday, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics released its CPI statistics for 2022.
This year’s tax cap allowed for a 3.57% increase, but the actual tax rate was 3.16%.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the CPI for all urban consumers (CPI-U) fell 0.1% in December, bringing the latest 12-month increase to 6.5%.
Combine that with the CPI-U number of 1.40% for 2020 and 7% in 2021, and the three-year average used to prepare the fiscal year 2024 budget is 4.96%.
Manchester operates under a property tax cap set by a voter-approved amendment to the city charter. Commonly referred to as the tax cap, the bylaw provision caps the total amount of monies collected from property taxes and not the tax rate itself.
The cap limits the city’s tax revenue to the average increase in the federal Consumer Price Index (CPI) over the previous three calendar years plus the value of new housing.
According to the city charter, the mayor must propose a city budget within the tax ceilings. The charter gives councilors the power to override the cap.
Merge football teams
Members of the school board have approved a proposal by Christine Telge, Manchester’s director of sport, to set up a cooperative girls’ football team for Manchester Central and West high schools.
The merger does not entail any additional financial costs for the district.
According to Telge, the Manchester West girls’ soccer team – which has won a game in the last six seasons – currently has 15 players. Meanwhile, attendance at Manchester Central continues to fall to 24 players last year.
Telge told board members the decline in the number of programs at both schools was partly due to communities like Hooksett no longer sending their students to Manchester, along with a lack of feeder programs at lower school levels.
“To increase enrollment and create opportunities for skill development at Manchester West High School, we believe a collaborative team is the appropriate step,” Telge wrote in a memo to school board members. “None of the high school teams have made any cuts in their programs in the last 6 years.”
Telge said the current girls’ soccer coach at Manchester Central is excited at the opportunity to work with more athletes and is fully aware of the NHIAA requirement that no players be cut.
“We hope this is just a two-year engagement where both teams can compete alone in 2025 with a strong feeder program,” Telge wrote.
School officials have yet to decide whether the team will train at West’s George W. Smith Complex or Central’s Padden Field.
Home games can alternate between Gil Stadium and Veterans Memorial Field.
Cleaning the Cashin Center
City health officials issued a press release last week detailing cleaning operations at the Cashin Center after residents raised concerns about the site being used as overnight accommodation.
According to the press release, the cashin center is currently being cleaned and disinfected with an EPA-registered disinfectant (Oxivir-TB tuberculosis) that officials say is effective against both norovirus and “emerging infections” like COVID-19 . In addition, this disinfectant can be applied with electrostatic sprayers.
Concerns have also been raised about the possibility of pests, including bed bugs, being introduced into the Cashin Center.
City health officials say their department has been involved in bed bug education and control since 2002.
“Bed bugs are known to be found in any environment, but they are less likely to be on a person than on someone’s property,” officials said in a news release. “The city has taken precautions to store people’s belongings to both keep them safe and to reduce the risk of bringing vermin into this facility.”
If a pest was found at the Cashin Center and/or an individual, health officials said immediate steps would be taken, including vacuuming the room and isolating affected items – the same protocol used for responding at a school, health care or in other public bodies hiring.
The Facilities Division is also using bed bug-specific monitors at the Cashin Center as an additional monitoring tool, officials said.
Paul Feely is the town hall reporter for the New Hampshire Union Leader and the Sunday News. Reach him at [email protected]