County budget displute centers on $112k that was placed in nursing home budget. . . or not really

LACONIA — In the most recent dispute to roil the government of Belknap County, Rep. Colette Worsman, who chairs the county convention, has claimed that the salaries of administrative personnel were overspent by nearly $63,000 in 2013. In a column published in The Daily Sun on Tuesday, Worsman charged that "your tax money went to the bloated upper management's salaries."

County Administrator Debra Shackett not only rejected the charge but contended (see column on page 4) that an accurate accounting of the administrative payroll shows that it was underspent, leaving a surplus that was returned to taxpayers by applying the undesignated fund balance against the amount to be raised by property taxes.

The dispute arises from the budgeting and accounting of administrative salaries.
The county administrator, administrative assistant, finance director, assistant finance officer, bookkeeper and human resources director share their time between the county administration and the nursing home. In order to accurately reflect the cost of operating the nursing home and ensure that the state reimburses qualified costs, the county budget includes two appropriations in equal amounts, one in the nursing home budget and another in the administration budget.

In 2013, $112,758 was appropriated for "professional management services" in the nursing home budget an an equal amount in the budgets of the administrative and finance departments. To ensure that the same appropriation was not spent twice, each quarter $28,189.50, one-fourth of the $112,578 appropriation, was debited to the nursing home and credited to the administrative and finance departments. In the budget the full amount of $112,578 appears as a revenue offsetting the appropriation for the salaries of the administrative and financial personnel.

According to Worsman, by debiting one department and crediting another this "inter-departmental allocation, zeroed out the $112,758 appropriation to the nursing home, which she described as "not real money." Consequently, when she calculated the appropriation for salaries of the administrative and finance departments, she excluded it. She concluded that since $424,795 was appropriated and $487,457 was expended, the budget was overspent by $62,662. Worsman claimed that the overage was applied to administrative salaries.

Shackett insists that the $112,758 appropriated to the nursing home and credited to administration and finance must be included in the total appropriation for salaries, bringing the amount to $518,516. Less actual expenditures of $487,457, she contends, the appropriation was underspent by $31,058.