Budgeting Berlin

The council passed a budget last night that laid off six city employees, all of them teachers. The police department, fire department and public works department all avoided layoffs.

It was a close finish to the most important part of the council’s year. If the council’s goals are the same next year they will face an even more challenging scenario, but they pulled it off this year.

A representative from one of the city employee’s unions told me last night they could have found an additional $300,000 in savings, but after the council rejected the teachers’ proposal no one else wanted to be next. That might be ingredient that enables the city to keep the tax rate flat next year.

$200,000 made it in to take down dilapidated properties the city got through tax deeding, and $200,000 more for street repair. While those are minuscule amounts compared to what the city needs the council is clearly committed to upgrading the city’s aging infrastructure, though it has limited resources.

So if you live in Berlin, your taxes shouldn’t go up and your services shouldn’t go way down. The battles may have left some bad blood (a firefighter spoke last night with some strong words for the council) and class sizes are going to go up, but the fire department isn’t getting any smaller.

Now the city just has to expand its tax base. Easier said than done.

On another note, if you’re looking for an update on the CPD/PSNH dispute listen to NHPR tonight. My story about how some people feel PSNH is deciding Berlin’s future through its control of the energy markets should air around 5:45 p.m. It will have the latest on the easement issue. I talked to a number of councilors about this, but I tried to restrict the voices to those of people in the middle, instead of ardent CPD supporters or opponents. I only had four minutes to explain years, but I think it came out well. Let me know what you think.

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