To The Daily Sun,
It is interesting to observe that the Belmont Selectboard has chosen to characterize passage of the county budget as a "battle waging in the press." The county delegation has not used its time or county resources buying space in the local newspaper to characterize its actions. Instead, what you have been reading is an attack by the press and those unhappy with some aspect of the county budget fostered by the press in order to move papers.
Please understand The Laconia Daily Sun has declined to print the side by side comparison of the 2016 actual spending versus the commissioners' proposed budget versus the delegation's appropriation unless I pay for advertising space, an action which was not a public service. My impression is it was self-serving bullying an action to which they are entitled. It also fosters use of cherry-picked facts for furtherance of a disagreement, which is good for circulation.
To address your statement that "...the delegation made significant cuts to the corrections portion of the budget...," let me observe that the actual spending by Belknap County in fiscal year 2016 for the Corrections Department was $3,481,101. The budget passed by the delegation for fiscal year 2017 appropriates $3,814,227. The budget for the Corrections Department was increased by $333,126, or about 9.56 percent. It is my hope this helps you understand what something about the source of your inquiry.
With respect to your statement that the cuts to the corrections portion of the budget "... will impact the new facility...," this is misinformation. The new facility, currently under construction, was funded last year. Its completion, which is expected late in Q3 (third quarter) or early in Q4, is not impacted by the operating budget of the Corrections Department. Those are separate funding items. The funding for the new facility was put into place in the 2016 county budget and is not an issue in the 2017 budget. The only activity will be changing from a construction type loan to permanent bonding once the facility is complete.
Your statement that the cuts to the corrections portion of the budget will "... potentially impact the Sheriff's Department..." too is misinformation. The Sheriff's Department is a separate department with its own budget.
To try to put into perspective what you may have heard, the total actual spending by Belknap County in fiscal year 2016 was $26,002,876. The appropriated budget for fiscal year 2017 is $27,487,463. That is a one year increase of $1,484,587, or about 5.7 percent. The delegation considered the prior history of county's actual spending, the commissioners' proposed budget, the presentations by the departments and we projected expected needs moving forward.
Finding the balance in the county budget is a difficult exercise. The delegation put in place a budget that is respectful of the requested spending levels, the functions of the county, the people served and the taxpayers' ability to pay. I would have included a copy of the budget comparison so you could assess the information you have gotten in context but the paper previously declined to print it.
The delegation also passed a motion giving the county commissioners the ability to control spending within each department without coming back to the delegation for permission to do so. The commissioners have the ability to set spending in each department as they so choose, up to the departmental total. The operation of the county is not part of the authority of the delegation. The delegation is responsible for appropriation of monies but little else short of malfeasance by county officials. Responsibility for operation of the county falls to the elected commissioners. Should they choose to behave irresponsibly it will be unfortunate.
It is my belief the unspecified information source you relied on in generation of your letter is painting a picture to elicit a response from you. My questions to you are: Was the information you received complete and correct? Are any threatened actions reasonable and likely? Is your request that the delegation further increase the county budget reasoned and reasonable?
Please understand this is only my personal response to what I read today, not a response by the county delegation.
State Rep. Marc Abear
(Editor's note: Due to a misunderstanding in our office as to what constitutes a "spread sheet," Rep. Abear's request for publication as a letter to the editor was denied. Below is the "table" he requested the newspaper print. The single sentence that proceeded it read as follows: "The voters and tax payers of Belknap County have been treated to a one-sided war in the local newspaper. The question should be: Is there a reason for concern or not? Below are the numbers. Please review them and judge for yourself.")
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