Concord adopts $130 million budget, 4% tax rate increase for residents

By JAMIE L. COSTA

Monitor staff

Published: 06-06-2023 5:00 PM

Following weeks of public hearings, Concord city councilors added nearly $500,000 to a budget proposal before passing it unanimously on Monday night.

The city’s total budgeted spending will increase $7.5 million, a 6.1% increase from $123.1 million to $130.6 million. The proposed 4% tax increase for residents would mean an extra $108 per year for a home worth $300,000. That will come on top of fee hikes that will hit water bills and garbage collection.

The city’s budget priorities also clashed with some residents who feel the city is not doing enough to support its more marginalized communities.

Budget and increased fees

In addition to the city’s budget increase, which includes $78.4 million for the general fund and $20 million for capital projects, residents will see a 4.5% increase for city water services and a 5% increase for city wastewater services, which will impact average residents by $1.12 and $2 a month, respectively. 

The general fund will see an increase of 0.6%, bringing its budget up from $77.9 million to $78.4 million while the capital project fund will see a decrease of 16%, from $24.2 million to $20.1 million. 

Additionally, councilors approved a solid waste and recycling adjustment that will increase the small purple bag price from $1.25 to $1.60 and the large purple bag price from $2.50 to $3.20. The change will bring an additional $420,000 to the city in revenue.

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Compared to last year, employee compensation increased by more than $2 million – $1.6 million in payroll while benefits will increase by $446,000. The city will use nearly $900,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds to pay for employee salaries and benefits to lower the impact on taxpayers. 

Some requests denied

In proposing the final budget to councilors, Concord Mayor Jim Bouley outlined budget increases to include an additional $82,000 for the police department for pre-employment screening and a public outreach social worker, $28,000 for general services for shared labor with the golf course, $24,000 to the general fund for tree plantings and holiday celebrations, $150,000 to the city manager’s budget for event grants and $140,000 for DEI training. The total new revenues equal $495,000, which were approved by councilors. 

Additionally, councilor Stacey Brown suggested adding $2,500 to support the multicultural festival, $4,500 for a children’s bike project in partnership with the Concord School District, reducing the golf fund by $2,500 in horticultural expenses and ceasing the golf course irrigation project until next year, all of which were voted down. 

“If the golf course is an investment we want to continue to invest in and maintain, that’s the choice of our community but we should look at members and users of the golf course and whether they’re Concord taxpayers or subsidized users,” said councilor Zandra Rice Hawkins. “There was also talk of including transportation and if we are going to continue to invest resources there, we need to think about this holistically.”

Funding for transportation to and from Beaver Meadow Golf Course, which is not accessible via public transit, was not included in the budget. 

Some feel left behind

In response to Brown’s suggestion to support Project S.T.O.R.Y., an organization that works to educate, empower and engage New American youth while providing them with resources to be successful, councilor Candace Bouchard questioned their use of resources within the community.

“I’m not sure they’re being transparent with the city,” she said. “They are using our city park but I don’t know if our director knows about this summer camp and soccer club they’re running out of the park. They’re a great organization but they need to follow the same checks and balances as everyone that rents space inside or outside the community center.”

During public comment, both community planner Jessica Livingston and Change for Concord leader Fisto Ndayishimiye expressed their disappointment in the council’s decision not to better support marginalized groups within the community. 

“Before we speak about groups that we don’t know about and make assumptions about them, I suggest you learn about the organization and talk to the people within the organization,” Ndayishimiye said. “Concord is behind other cities and the state when it comes to DEIJB and I hate that there are issues that we don’t want to talk about.” 

Hawkins suggested taking the $140,000 Bouley suggested adding to the general fund for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Justice & Belonging training and breaking it down to support $70,000 for a DEIJB consultant, $30,000 for multicultural space, $10,000 for translation services and $30,000 for continued DEIJB efforts. 

“Through the DEIJB listening sessions, the common theme we heard was that the space would be used,” she said. “This is a very immediate and tangible outcome we can implement right now. I am tired of waiting and I encourage the council to not wait  again. What are we doing if we’re not acting  on the things community members are asking us to do?”

However, her amendment was voted down and the budget was adopted. There were no additional comments in support of or opposition to the final budget’s adoption.

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