LACONIA — County workers may see a small raise and at least one new corrections officer could be hired if Belknap County commissioners' plans go through.
The commissioners held a budget work session at the Belknap County Complex Thursday at which they discussed future staffing of the Belknap County Corrections Department with Superintendent Keith Gary and agreed to hire one new officer in January and wait until May 1 before bringing on two additional staffers.
The commission is tentatively eyeing a corrections department budget of $3,877,018, which would be about $70,000 less than last year's approved budget.
County Administrator Deb Shackett noted that hiring in January is ''a risky proposition'' as the county budget has not yet been approved by he County Convention and could be cut, which would force the department to have to drop someone who had hired in January.
The commission is currently looking at a budget which would increase the amount to be raised by taxes by about one percent.
Commissioners are also waiting for word from three unions on whether or not they will agree to a switch of health insurance plans to a new provider. The commissioners want to switch health insurance plans starting Jan. 1, 2016, for county employees from the current provider, Health Trust, to the New Hampshire Interlocal Trust, which partners with the nonprofit Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare to provide group health insurance plans for local governments.
Under terms of the current contracts with three State Employee Association-affiliated unions at the Belknap County Home, Corrections Department and Sheriff's Department, the county has the right to substitute a comparable health care plan for an existing plan provided the unions agree that the new plan is comparable.
A deadline of November 14 has been set for the unions to agree to the shift.
Commission Chairman Dave decoy said that the county can't keep kicking the can down the road on the switch of insurance carriers and suggested that the commission should be prepared to make its case in court as early as Monday if the unions don't agree to the change.
Commissioner Hunter Taylor (R-Alton) urged waiting until later in the week and said hat current negotiations were going well and he didn't want to upset the apple cart.
Devoy asked if there was sufficient money in the budget to pay for the costs of new union contracts and Shackett said that the $200,000 in contingency funds were adequate to pay the $171,000 it would take if all county union employees received a 1 percent raise and step increases.
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