By ROGER AMSDEN, for THE LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — County Commission Chairman Dave DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) said he hopes that a tour of the Community Corrections facility will convince members of the Belknap County Delegation that the proposed $28 million county budget should not be cut by over $1 million as has been suggested by some members of the delegation.
The delegation is scheduled to tour the facility, which is under construction and scheduled to open in September, at 5 p,m. on Tuesday, Feb. 21, prior to its 6 p.m. meeting to again take up the county budget.
At the last budget meeting held by the delegation, DeVoy reacted strongly to a suggestion by Belknap County Delegation Chairman Herb Vadney (R-Meredith) that the delegation set a budget of slightly under $27 million and that commissioners then decide which line items should be cut.
DeVoy said that the knife wasn't going to be in his hand and that it was up to the delegation to specify what budget lines it wants to cut. He has maintained that the cuts suggested by some delegation members could leave the county without enough money to staff the corrections facility.
He says that all members of the delegation who voted for the $8 million bond issue in 2015 were aware that there would be additional costs for staffing and that it is imperative that the budget not be cut.
Vadney, who said at the time that the bond issue was passed that the county should look at cuts in other departments to offset the increased personnel costs in the Corrections Department, says that the current delegation is more conservative than the one which passed the bond issue and expects that it will still insist on cuts.
Rep. Ray Howard, delegation vice chairman, proposed that the budget be set at $26.8 million, which he said represents an increase of about 4 percent over what actual spending was in 2016.
His proposal calls for cutting at least $220,000 in funding for outside agencies but other cuts were not specified.
Also supporting cuts to the proposed budget are Rep. Michael Sylvia (R-Belmont) and , Rep. Norm Silber (R-Gilford), who said he won't support any increase in county taxes.
Commissioners have proposed a $28,034,331 budget this year, which will see the amount to be raised by property taxes revert to the $13,837,174 raised in 2015, which is about $875,000 more than was raised last year. In order keep the increase to that level, the commissioners agreed to use $2,183,657 from the undesignated fund balance.
The proposed amount to be raised by taxes is 6.31 percent higher than last year's $12,963,440, a 6.74 decrease from 2015. The bulk of that decrease came in the form of using an additional $605,000 of fund balance to reduce taxes which the delegation adopted over objections by commissioners, raising the amount of the surplus used to reduce taxes to $2,380,000 last year.
The proposed budget numbers will change by the time the delegation meets as the commission will add some $136,000 to budget lines which department heads have asked for in recent weeks, as well as the $17,000 estimated impact of a contract with Teamsters Local 633 which the delegation approved recently.
Members of the delegation have been critical of the budget prepared by commissioners, noting that commissioners only recently announced $850,000 in additional operational savings in 2016, after initially having only $250,000 in that line in the budget.
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