CONCORD — Rep. Colette Worsman (R-Meredith) is filing legislation intended to delineate the respective authority of the Beknap County Convention and the Belknap County Commission over the preparation and management of the county budget.
Worsman has requested a bill "relative to transfer of county appropriations in Belknap County" be drafted and introduced in the New Hampshire House of Representatives in January. She said yesterday that she is seeking "anything that will make the process smoother, clearer and define the roles of each branch of county government, the convention, as the legislative branch, and the commission as the executive branch."
Throughout the 2013 budget process the Republican majority of the convention has insisted that the convention can rewrite the budget proposed by the commission by adding or deleting, raising or lowering appropriations for particular line items. And, in the course of managing the budget, the commission may only reallocate funds from one line to another with the approval of the Executive Committee of the convention.
With equal resolve the commissioners claim that the authority of the convention is limited to itemizing appropriations in 13 categories accord with the "Statement of County Appropriations and Revenue as Voted," or MS-42 form, submitted to the New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration. Within these categories, the commission contends it can distribute funds among different lines without the approval of the convention as long as expenditures do not exceed the total appropriations of the particular categories.
Last month, the convention, against Worsman's recommendation, voted not to file suit in Belknap County Superior Court against the commission in an effort to resolve the dispute.
Worsman said that the bill would apply specifically and exclusively to Belknap County, explained that "it has been made abundantly clear that among the 10 counties there are diverse opinions and approaches to this issue." She noted that a similar statute that prescribes a budget process for Hillsborough County was enacted in 1978 and serves as a precedent for legislation bearing on a single county. She anticipates that her bill to include elements of the law for Hillsborough County.
Worsman said that she has not yet consulted with other members of the county convention, but emphasized "I believe strongly that this is a bipartisan issue. I would welcome the support of anyone who is interested in clarifying the process."