Published DateTo the editor,
Many citizens have questioned why the Belknap County Delegation has made an issue of the 2013 county budget that is only a few percentage points higher than in 2009. Well, it's not about just the overall spending; it's about where it is being spent and why it is being spent. In fact, over the past few years the county commissioners have done an admirable job controlling spending and maintaining almost level budgets. But, they have let spending on salaries climb dramatically.
First, let's look at the number of county employees. In 2009 there were 208 full time, and 26 part time employees. In 2013 there will be 171 full time, and 46 part time employees. For the sake of comparison we need to convert these numbers to full time equivalents (FTE) based on part time employees working 30 hours per week (some may work less). Although an approximation, this will give a more accurate picture of how employment has changed. At 30 hours a week, 26 part time employees would equal 19.5 FTE and 46 part time convert to 34.5 FTE. Addition will show 227.5 FTE in 2009, and 205.5 FTE in 2013. In summary, since 2009 the county work force has decreased by the equivalent of 22 full time employees.
The county commissioners have been saying that the county payroll has remained essentially flat, up only eight percent in four years. That is true, but what is also true is that we are now paying 22 fewer employees, about 11 percent fewer than we were paying in 2009. If you adjust today's payroll to account for the reduced number of employees you will see that the payroll has increased almost exactly 20 percent. That is, county pay has been going up at about five percent each of the last four years, during a time when most of our citizens, both working and retired, have seen almost no increases at all. I do not intend to imply that all county employees have benefited equally from these 5 percent per year increases. Indeed, the additional payroll may have been expressly focused on segments of the employees, but it remains that the county taxpayers are paying for some fairly large increases in payroll. So, that is the way I see the situation and why I, and much of the county delegation, has tried to draw a line in the sand.
Another point to ponder: Although we have only glimpsed the top flag on an approaching ship (a $45 million jail and its attendant staff of more than 25 new employees) please keep in mind that those new employees will start at these newly increased wage levels, adding at least two million dollars to the annual budget, and that will be on top of the roughly two million in yearly payments on the bond. If I may continue my maritime analogy, to change the direction of a large ship requires small navigational adjustments well before you get close to shore.
Rep. Herb Vadney
Belknap District 2