Published DateTo the editor,
Belknap County Convention Chair Colette Worsman and her supporters on the convention have received severe criticism over the past several weeks over their handling of the Belknap County budget process. As a Belknap county resident I want to say that the criticism is completely unwarranted. In the Belknap County budget-making process, the convention represents me, the taxpayer, and they are doing exactly what I would want them to do on my behalf which is to intelligently question every line item in the county budget to determine its validity. Without their efforts the Belknap County budget would be 9 percent higher this year. In my view, it isn't the average taxpayer who is complaining, it is those that didn't get the increase they were looking for.
The convention's job, by law, is to oversee the budgeting process, not to "rubber stamp" a commissioner budget 9 percent higher than last year. The chairs of the Belknap County and Lakes Region Democrats have called for a "cease fire in the ongoing battle between the majority of the delegation's Republican members and the county commissioners", but instead of raising a white flag the county commissioners keep on fighting.
If the Democrats want peace, have the Belknap County Commissioners stick to the line item approved budget and get written permission for any changes from the Executive Committee per RSA 24:14 instead of transferring money as they see fit. Checking the county website proves the public may not even access the approved 2013 Belknap County Line Item Budget. The web site shows only the department totals under the 2013 Budget, not the individual line item expenses that were approved. Additionally, there are indications that the county commissioners are spending money from lines where no appropriations exist in violation of RSA 24:15. Rep. Worsman and her supporters would be derelict in their duty if they didn't challenge these actions.
The county commissioners recently requested a $200,000 increase to the 2013 budget to enable the nursing home to potentially receive $400,000 in additional revenue. In spite of the acrimony of the earlier budget process, Rep. Worsman scheduled a public hearing to discuss the matter but the county commissioners did not provide sufficient backup information to justify the expenditure and Rep. Worsman cancelled the meeting. Good for her. Any reasonable business person would insist on plenty of supporting material for any project where there is the possibility to double your money in a short time. The convention would be neglecting their oversight duties if they were to approve a budget increase without sufficient justification.
To Rep. Worsman and her convention supporters, I say good show and press on. The Belknap County Commissioners are like a big ship with a small rudder. It takes a long time and hard work to effect change. Rep. Worsman and her convention supporters have added a couple of feet to that rudder and we are beginning to see some positive change i.e. no tax increase this year and no longer a "business as usual" approach in determining the Belknap County Budget. If the Democrats want peace tell them to stop fighting.