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Proposed county budget is up less than 5 percent but lack of surplus will cause 33 percent tax hike

  • Published in Letters

To The Daiily Sun,

To the residents of Belknap County:

We, the Belknap County Commissioners would like to add some perspective to the sticker shock of the recommended tax increase of 33 percent .
Please consider that while the amount to be raised by taxes is an increase of 33 percent, the actual spending level (the budget) reflects an increase of less than 5 percent. The 33 percent is the result of artificially reducing the tax rate for the past couple of years by using all of the “surplus.” That automatically created a $2.2 million tax increase for 2018.

The true increase in spending (4.7 percent) is created by a few significant items:

— The Delegation approved a new Community Corrections Center, which will now operate for a full year. (Including personnel and operational costs.) This is an estimated addition of $450,000.

— The Delegation approved contractual obligations to our employees. (Four collective bargaining units.) This is an estimated addition of $700,000

— We have to pay a full year of the N.H. Retirement System’s rate increase from last summer (set by the Legislature). An estimated addition of $94,000.

— Due to the lack of fund balance (“surplus”), our borrowing costs will increase significantly. An estimated additional $144,000.

— The Legislature continues to increase the payment required to the state Department of Health & Human Services. This increase accounts for $194,000.
— We cannot continue to ignore our facility needs by not funding maintenance projects another year. An additional $178,000.

These added costs total $1,760,000. When added to the $2.2 million lack of fund balance, this accounts for most of the tax increase.

We have considered a plan that would help us to rebuild the county’s financial situation over the next few years. It is attainable and it is beneficial to our citizens to continue providing county services that you depend on in your greatest times of need. We will recommend this course of action to the delegation.

We think it’s important for you to know that your county commissioners continue to work hard to find savings at every opportunity. We continue to competitively bid all significant purchases and services. We depend on our staff to continuously evaluate systems to find efficiencies. As evidence of the lean operation of Belknap County, we have both the lowest number of employees and the smallest budget of any county in the state! We have been operating on very close to the same amount of tax dollars as we did in 2006 and it is not sustainable. It is not easy or pleasant to recommend such a substantial tax increase, but we cannot continue to do more with less and fulfil our constitutional requirements.

Please contact the Board of Commissioners, or our county administrator if you have any questions or would like more information about the 2018 budget recommendation and process.

Belknap County Board of Commissioners:
Dave DeVoy, Chairman
Glen Waring
Hunter Taylor