Published DateLACONIA — The New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration (DRA) has returned as unacceptable the "Statement of County Appropriations and Revenues as Voted" submitted by the Belknap County Convention. But the chair of the convention says the issues raised had to do with presentation and not substance and they have already been dealt with.
In a letter to Rep. Jane Cormier (R-Alton), clerk of the convention, Stephen Hamilton of DRA said that the agency found that "what was filed is not an official DRA-issued Form," explaining that "additional wording and other changes have been made to the DRA form." Noting that "this was an oversight on the part of the convention and that a draft or other working copy was filed," he said it could not be accepted and returned it. Hamilton said the official form must be filed and advised that if it is not, the entries on what was filed would be transcribed to an official form and used to calculate the tax rate.
The form, called an MS-42, has been at the center of the controversy between the convention and Belknap County Commission over the 2013 county budget. The Republican majority of the convention has insisted that the convention possesses the authority to rewrite the budget proposed by the commission by adding or deleting, raising or lowering appropriations for particular line items. In the course of managing the budget, the commission may only move funds between lines with the approval of the executive committee of the convention.
With equal resolve, the commissioners, on the strength of a legal opinion, claim that the authority of the convention is limited to itemizing appropriations in keeping with the MS-42 signed by the chair and clerk of the convention and submitted to the DRA. The MS-42 lists appropriations under 13 categories, encompassing departments and functions, and revenues under five categories. Within these categories, the commission contends it can distribute funds among different purposes without the approval of the convention as long as expenditures do not exceed the total appropriations of the particular categories.
Following the adoption of the 2013 county budget in March, Rep. Colette Worsman (R-Meredith), who chairs the convention, hand delivered the MS-42 to DRA, attaching a copy of line item budget voted by convention along with a copy of the draft minutes of the March 4 meeting where the vote was taken. For good measure, she typed on the form a note advising the DRA that by majority vote the convention adopted a line-item budget and required the commission to secure the written permission of the executive committee of the convention to transfer funds from one line to another.
However, the wording of one line on the form was changed and words added to another line to the form. The line reading "executive" was changed to "administration" and the words "for Reg. of Deeds" were added to the line reading "other legal costs." Over the objections of the commission, the convention appropriated $5,200 to fund legal fees incurred by the Register of Deeds in a dispute with the commissioners over compliance with the recommendations of the independent audits. The commission refused to pay the fees while convention created a line item to fund them.
Worsman said yesterday that a corrected MS-42 has been filed. She said that DRA requested the typewritten note on the first form be replaced with a handwritten note so as to indicate that the explanation of the budget originated with the convention, not the agency. DRA also asked that the $10.9-million appropriated to the nursing be divided into three lines. But, Worsman said, DRA raised no objection to specifying that "other legal costs" were earmarked for the Register of Deeds.