Budget feud extends to whether or not reps will get paid

LACONIA — Anticipating that with its next meeting, the Belknap County Convention will have busted its 2013 budget, Rep. Frank Tilton (R-Laconia), who chairs the delegation's Executive Committee, said yesterday that he has advised his 17 colleagues not to expect to receive their stipend or be reimbursed for mileage for attending meetings during the remainder of the year.

The appropriation for the convention is $15,550, consisting of $3,500 for meeting fees, $10,000 for legal services, $450 for publishing public notices and $1,600 for mileage reimbursement. During the first three quarters of the year, ending on September 30, 97.6-percent of the total appropriation was spent. The convention has spent $5,050 on meeting fees, or 144 percent of its budget, $7,061 on legal fees, or 71 percent of its budget, $1,059 on public notices, or 235 percent of its budget and $2,002 on mileage reimbursement, or 125 percent of its budget. Altogether the convention is projected to spend $20,025, over spending its by 32 percent, by year end.

Last week, for a second time, the Belknap County Commissioners sought approval from the Executive Committee to transfer funds from the contingency account to defray the projected overage. County Administrator Debra Shackett said that the commissioners believe they are bound by statute (RSA 29:9-ee) to pay and reimburse members of the convention for attending meetings and requested the transfer in order to comply with the law during the remainder of the year.

Through September the convention had overspent its $5,100 budget for meeting fees and mileage reimbursement by $1,952 and is projected to close the year $3,475 in the red.

Tilton said that the request reached the committee this week too late to be considered and deferred the discussion and decision until October 22. He said that he told members of the convention that once the budget for meeting fees was exhausted, they should not expect to be paid or reimbursed for attending subsequent meetings.

However, he did not rule out transferring funds, noting that the convention is projected to overrun its budget for printing public notices in local newspapers. Any transfer of funds, he said, would be applied to outstanding debts with vendors, not to paying and reimbursing members. "The convention does not address its own needs before those of others," Tilton said. "That's leadership 101."

Shackett said that while the convention is responsible for appropriations, the commissioners are responsible for expenditures. Referring to the statute, she said that "the commissioners cannot decide not to pay fees and mileage. Until they tell us they choose not to be paid," she continued, "we believe they must be paid."