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Worman's claim that county overspent administrative budget is hotly contested

LACONIA — A claim by Belknap County Convention Chairperson Colette Worsman (R-Meredith) that the amount appropriated for wages in the 2013 Belknap County administrative budget account was overspent by $63,000 last year brought immediate challenges from Belknap County commissioners and her fellow representatives, none of whom publicly supported her contention, at Monday's night convention meeting.
''We had a clean audit. You mean to tell me that our auditors aren't doing their job?'' shot back Commission Chairman John Thomas (R-Belmont).
Rep. David Huot (D-Laconia) did a quick computation of the amounts appropriated and the amounts actually expended last year which he said showed that the administration salary account was actually underspent by $31,000.
Huot said that he used the budget form which the county is required to submit to the N.H. Department of Revenue Administration to obtain his information and asked how Worsman had obtained her total since her total wasn't on that form.
''You only find it on my spreadsheet, not on any others,'' said Worsman, who earlier in the meeting had circulated her own budget spreadsheet.
At one point during the discussion she said that making the computations was a confusing issue but persisted on saying that there was ''a clear movement of salaries.''
County Administrator Debra Shackett said that she was at a loss to understand how Worsman could come up with the number that she did and said that the money had been spent exactly as appropriated.
Shackett said that part of her salary, 30 percent, is paid for from the nursing home budget, as are parts of other salaries in the administration and finance departments.
''We do it this way because it is in the best interest of the county.'' said Shackett, who said that apportioning the salaries allows the county to recoup state funds through the nursing home budget.
She explained that the county has been apportioning salaries that way or the last five years and that it was recommended by auditors in 2009. A change in the budget format last year resulted in the accounts being moved to different lines but the practice hasn't changed.
Shackett had explained the process for allocating salaries at the start of the discussion of the administrative, finance and IT budgets and said that in past years the salary allocations had been tallied and adjusted at the end of the year but now adjustments are done weekly.
Rep. Robert Greemore (R-Meredith), who chairs the Administration, Finance and IT subcommittee, said that the allocation process was confusing and Rep. Richard Burchell (R-Gilmanton) suggested that a budget footnote might make it easier to understand. He was supported by Rep. Tilton, who said ''explanations in writing are good.''
Several times during the meeting, representatives asked Shackett for information which she said she would have been happy to provide if she had known what the subject of Monday night's meeting was going to be.
''What is she going to do, use a crystal ball?'' asked Commissioner Thomas, who said that there was no written agenda for what was going to be discussed and as a result all of the county department heads attended the meeting, even though only the outside agencies and administration, finance and IT budgets were discussed.
Shackett and Commissioner Ed Philpot (D-Laconia) said that many of the issues discussed Monday night could have been resolved at last year's budget review hearings if members of the convention had asked them questions.
''We weren't allowed to explain any of these,'' said Philpot.
There was also a discussion of the dispute over line item budget authority, an ongoing battle in which the convention has voted to file a lawsuit against the commission but has yet to do so.
Rep. Tilton said that the convention doesn't like the way the commissioners used the contingency line item and that he wanted to see the convention zero out that line and create a contingency fund.

 
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