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County budget shortfall certification process dead on arrival

  • Published in Letters

To The Daily Sun,

On Sept. 30, a notice for a delegation meeting, “The purpose of the meeting is to certify funding recommendation to the DRA.” Then, on Oct. 10, the day before the meeting the truth is revealed. 1. No new purpose exists. 2. This meeting is for certification, a term not found in county law. The “intends to use $290,810 from the County’s Fund Balance to offset estimated revenue the county will not be receiving (HB413). This is not a new purpose. It’s a revenue shortfall, plain and simple.

All of the estimated individual line item purposes with amounts necessary offset by the estimated revenues from all sources. – A balanced budget.

The notice does not list a law for the “certification” meeting because none exists. A supplemental appropriation (RSA 24:14-a) is for a new appropriation to be made subsequent to the adoption of the annual county budget to offset a new purpose. Certification is not a new purpose, much less found in the law. It is an unanticipated shortfall of the estimated revenues.

Clearly, something has to be done as the county commissioners must meet it fiduciary responsibility. It is the elected county treasurer who alerts the commission of the projected revenue shortfall.

“Whenever the money in the treasury of any county shall be insufficient to meet the demands upon the same, the treasurer, upon the order of the commissioners with the approval of the Executive Committee of the county convention, and such approval shall not be given until the treasurer has appeared in person before the committee to testify in support of any such request, may borrow such sum as they shall deem necessary for the purpose, and give the note of the county therefore; provided, however, that if the sum to be borrowed, together with the collected taxes of the same fiscal year, shall exceed by 10 percent the total appropriations made for that year by the county convention, the approval of the county convention for such excess borrowing must be secured, unless the convention has not acted upon the appropriations for the ensuing year. Nothing in this section shall be deemed or construed as authority to exceed appropriations made by the county convention.” (RSA 29:8 Borrowing)

Traditionally, in the absence of a County Charter or a formal fund balance policy, the portion of fund balance is frequently used to reduce property taxes when annual tax rates are certified by the Department of Revenue Administration for the ensuing Fiscal Year budget. (2018).
The certification process which is intended to take place today, Oct. 11 at 10:30 a.m., if completed, is dead on arrival. The DRA cannot order the delegation to illegally deplete the fund balance which clearly was not increased in the current year, i.e. the shortfall in the estimated revenues. Borrowing is the only resolution to the pending crisis. The next proposed budget for FY 2018 can address the portion of the debt remaining. The contingency account is sufficient to meet the interest and dividend payments for FY 2017.

Thomas A. Tardif
Laconia