Convention Eyes Cutting Employee Raises from County Budget (414)

LACONIA — The Belknap County Convention delved into the minute details of the county budget for more than three hours last evening in a contentious session which ended with the legislators asking that County Administrator Debra Shackett prepare a budget spreadsheet which would show the dollar impact of level-funding wages of county employees at rates currently being paid.
Goal of the convention majority as expressed by Convention Chairman Colette Worsman (R-Meredith) is to back out of the raises which the County Commissioners included in their proposed budget of a 1.6 cost of living increase for county employees and 3 percent step raises for eligible employees.
Convention members said they wanted to see the impact on the county budget, which Rep. Frank Tilton (R-Laconia) called a ''working document'' before they meet for further deliberations today with a plan of finalizing the proposed $ 26.6 million budget next week.
Convention Vice Chairman Rep. Robert Greemore (R-Meredith) asked that Shackett include the hiring of three additional guards at the County Jail and the switch from a part-time to a full-time employee in the Restorative Justice Program in those budget calculations.
Leading the charge for holding the line on county employee pay raises was Rep. Herb Vadney (R-Meredith), who chaired the convention's Public Safety Subcommittee.
Vadney said that it was the job of the convention to smoke out those parts of the budget where he maintained those preparing the budget ''always add a little extra for every line item,'' something he said ''is seldom mentioned and always done.''
He apologized later for his statement after being confronted by Belknap County Attorney Melissa C. Guldbrandsen, who said "There's been an accusation here that this budget was padded and I adamantly deny that. There's not an ounce of padded money in this budget and I'm offended that there is an accusation that I've padded added this budget. I am cautious and I watch the bottom line very carefully.''
She said that there was a chance that she might have to return to the convention later this year looking for contingency funds due to expenses that she can't control such as investigation of deaths, autopsies and other medical expenses.
Vadney apologized for his ''harsh words'' and said he was overreacting to his concerns about the budget.
He was also criticized by Shackett for his statement. She said his comments were a slap in the face to every county employee who worked on the budget.''