Published DateTo the editor,
Seeking a balance between the needs of the county government and that of those who are responsible for paying the bills — the Belknap County Taxpayers — on March 4, 2013, your representatives passed the 2013 Belknap County budget.
On December 10th, the Belknap County Commissioners presented their budget to the delegation. That budget would have required a nearly 9 percent increase in the amount required to be raised by taxation. Officials and members from our communities began appealing to convention members to control this budget. Your delegates have worked tremendously hard to accomplish that charge.
We began by identifying the cost drivers. Realizing that the increase in this budget was, in part, caused by unsustainable wage raises—an average of 5 percent per year — and the taxpayers' continued absorption of the increases in health insurance and benefits, our goal was to slow this growth. We realize that while most county employees are dedicated and hardworking individuals, so are the hardworking taxpayers who must support their own families while still supporting the county employees' salaries and benefits. Many taxpayers have seen no salary increases at all during the last few years and, if they have insurance, they are paying for all or most of it out of their own pockets. Therefore while the approved 2013 Belknap County budget made very few cuts, it has reduced the growth of county government expenditures. Essentially, we have succeeded in level-funded salary lines, incorporating the raises and step increases made during the 2012 year. This decision also reduces the associated appropriations such as Payroll Taxes, Retirement, Unemployment, and Workers Compensation expenses. After taking into consideration the 2012 mid-year rate increase, we have also level-funded health insurance for employees and their families.
Two appropriation lines in each department have no monetary amounts assigned to them: the lines associated with longevity pay and a sick pay bonus. Additionally, we have reduced one salary line, as well as the legal and training budgets in the Administration Department. We reduced the New Computer line from $14,000 to $11,216 in Info Technology. We identified savings made possible by a donation by Rep. Bob Greemore. We achieved a more realistic amount for Building Improvements in the Maintenance Department. We funded fewer new cruisers for purchase by the Sheriff's Department. Finally in the Belknap County Nursing Home, we reduced some of the overtime funding from $150,000 to $100,000, removed the funding for a new vehicle, some chairs and the refurbishing a floor that appears to be in good condition. In all, the total appropriations were reduced by $599,980.
On the revenue side, we used a bit more of the fund balance and more realistically adjusted revenue accounts based on actual receipts. The budget, as voted, raises taxes by $56,010 over last year's budget.
In summary, the 2013 Belknap County Budget balances the needs of both the county and the taxpayers with no change to the number of employees and therefore no change to services.
Please note these are my comments and do not necessarily represent all members of the convention. I would like to publicly thank them for all of their hard work and I am sure they would appreciate your support.
Rep. Colette Worsman
Meredith & Gilford