To The Daily Sun,
Rep. Michael Sylvia (R-Belmont) had a letter in the Friday, Dec. 1, edition of The Laconia Daily Sun in which he called the Belknap County budget a “shell game” because the audited statement of expenditures for a given year seems always to be less than the amount appropriated by the county convention. Rep. Sylvia’s letter plumbs the depth of lack of understanding of government budgeting by some members of the convention.
I’d like you to sit down at the kitchen table, right now, and with pencil and paper, write down your estimates of everything you’re going to spend in all of 2018, based on what you think your income will be for that year. If you’re like me, you’ll want to make sure you budget enough so you won’t run short at the end of the year.
Now fast forward to January 2019. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a little left over? When the New Hampshire Legislature creates a biennial budget, he House and Senate finance committees understand that budgeting is not an exact science, so they make sure the budget total is equal to or less than what the state is estimated to take in during the budget period. The excess even has a name — “lapse.” That means that the authority of the governor and state agencies to spend the money ends, or “lapses” at the end of the budget period and the money just remains in the treasury. Any money the state gets that the Legislature did not expect, also goes into the treasury and the two amounts, added together, are called a “surplus.”
The county budget and the city and town budgets work generally the same way. Please note that the process I just described is all done by the Legislature (county convention), not the governor and state agencies (county commissioners and county agencies.). And, oh yes, also remember when you’re sitting at your kitchen table making your estimates that it’s December and your “budget period” starts in less than a month. The county agencies have been figuring their budget requests since about July.
So if Rep. Sylvia wants to see who’s to blame for his so-called “shell game," all he needs to do is go into his bathroom and look in the mirror.
State Rep. David O. Huot