To The Daily Sun,
There has been much written about cuts in the county budget, however, I prefer to call them reductions of new increases.
First of all, the budget as a whole has increased by $1.4 million over last year's. Second, the reductions to the outside agencies of $163,710 was transferred to the basic operations expense line of the county, which is in addition to the $1.4 million in funding for the 2017 budget.
Some of the increases in expenditures come from the recent negotiations with the four unions representing the county employees. As a result, pay and benefit increases added $352,282, based on current staffing levels. Commissioner Taylor likes to comment in his letters to the editor how the delegation unanimously approved the union contracts. But what he fails to mention is that he previously stated the approval of the new contracts would save tens of thousands of dollars in the 2017 budget and those savings have not materialized.
There has been a lot of talk about not opening the new jail in September because of the lack of funding, which was estimated at $650,000 dollars to fund a full year. The corrections budget was increased by $127,756 in 2016 and increased again by $334,008 this year, which equals $461,764 in just two years. These increases certainly appear to be enough to cover the $162,500 needed to fund the costs for the remaining three months of the budget year that the jail may be opened.
We have also heard the sheriff will not be able to perform his constitutional duties, which are court security, serving court documents, and transporting prisoners. Ancillary services not in the Constitution are dispatch, SWAT, the acronym for special weapons assault teams, and running radar for traffic control. Maybe the sheriff should drop some of these extra activities to save money.
When Commissioner Taylor talks about society running amok if we cut outside agencies consider this: These agencies come to the public tax trough four times; once at the federal level, once at the state level and twice at the local level, county and municipal. This is a fact. Every town can support outside agencies if they desire by voting on warrant articles presented in March. These agencies coming to the county is just a second bite of the local apple and side-stepping the will of the people.
I think the Belknap Economic Development Council and the Belknap County Conservation District do good things in their chosen niches, but they're supposed to be self-funded, and it is time for them to do so. If anyone would like to volunteer or write a check to support them, I'm sure you will not be turned away.
Raymond Howard Jr., Vice Chair
Belknap County Delegation