By ROGER AMSDEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — The Belknap County Delegation, looking for ways to scale back an estimated 33.6 percent increase in county taxes, got a glimpse at two proposals by legislators to achieve that goal Monday night.
The plans were introduced by Rep. Marc Abear (R-Meredith) and Rep. Michael Sylvia (R-Belmont) after the delegation, by a unanimous vote, rejected Abear’s motion to approve the $29,055,233 budget submitted by the Belknap County Commissioners.
The commission’s budget proposal represented a $1.3 million increase over the current $27,743,463 budget. Based on projected revenues, the amount to be raised by taxation would increase by more than $4.3 million, from $12,963,440 to $17,329,033, a 33.68 percent increase.
Last year’s budget used $2.2 million from the county fund balance to reduce the amount to be collected by taxes, but with little left in that account, those offsetting revenues are not available for the coming year’s budget.
Abear, who voted against his own original motion, proposed to keep the budget at the amount actually spent last year, which he said was $26,883,334.
That proposal is $2,161,996 less than the commissioners’ recommendation.
Rep. Peter Spanos (R-Laconia) said he did not think that level funding would be the way to go, as some departments would be affected more than others.
Rep. Frank Tilton (R-Laconia) said the proposal also did not take into account the possibility that the county would receive grants, which should be part of the budget and would have no impact on taxes.
Sylvia introduced a plan that he said was based on small increases in spending over the previous year, which he said amounted to 1.5 percent. He projected his plan would increase county taxes by 11 percent.
Sylvia’s plan would spend $27,129,560, about $37,000 more than the county spent last year and $1,825,653 less than the budget proposed by the commissioners.
Sylvia’s proposal would reduce the Belknap County Corrections Department budget to $3,816,443, which is $58,000 less than that spent last year and about $735,000 less than proposed by the commissioners.
It would reduce the Belknap County Nursing Home budget to $10,954,431, or $600,000 less than it spent in 2017 and $672,000 less than the $11,626,847 proposed by the commission.
Those nursing home cuts include a reduction in the nursing department to $5,756,069, or $200,000 less than spent in 2017 and more than $425,000 less than the amount proposed by the commission.
The Sheriff’s Department budget under Sylvia’s proposal would be $47,000 more than the $2,084,602 spent last year, but $233,000 less than the $2,328,160 proposed by the commission.
The County Attorney’s office would receive about $15,000 more than spent last year, but the $800,000 proposed by Sylvia is $119,180 less than proposed by the commission.
County maintenance would be cut $40,000 from its $593,663 spending in 2017 and $86,000 less than supported by the commission.
Rep. Tilton said he was not prepared to vote for any budget number based on a verbal summary and asked that Sylvia produce a proposal with budget lines.
Sylvia said he had left the line item budget at home, as he thought it would be a waste of time to focus on line items when commissioners have the authority to transfer money from one line to another in the department budgets, as long as they do not exceed the total amount appropriated for the department.
He said he would bring the information to next Monday’s meeting of the delegation when it meets at 7 p.m. to resume budget deliberations.
Commission Chairman Dave DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) said the proposed cuts would devastate county government and that the county might have to close the recently opened Community Corrections Center if those figures are adopted.