Nobody can credibly say that members of the executive committee of the Belknap County Legislative Delegation cut the county budget out of self-interest.
The expected 11 percent savings in county taxes approved last week will amount to small savings for most property taxpayers in Belknap County, including the five members of the committee: Chairman Raymond Howard of Alton, Norman Silber and Glen Aldrich of Gilford, Michael Sylvia of Belmont and Barbara Comtois of Center Barnstead.
It was the executive committee that recommended steep reductions in the original budget proposed by Belknap County commissioners and couched the cuts as a major victory for county taxpayers.
It was hardly that.
An analysis of tax records shows the county share of 2020 property tax rates in the Belknap County communities ranged from a high of 9 percent in Alton to 5 percent in Barnstead and Belmont. The county share of the tax rate in the 11 municipalities averaged just 6.5 percent of the overall tax rate.
Reducing county taxes by 11 percent, as the delegation voted to do, will save the average $300,000 homeowner in the county $38.90, according to an analysis of 2020 tax records.
Even the savings for homes assessed at millions of dollars will be modest. For instance, the owner of a home in Meredith assessed at $3 million paid around $42,000 last year in taxes, but the savings on the county share of that bill next year – barring a dramatic change like a reappraisal – will be $4,620.
Lest we forget, state representatives are taxpayers, too, and we asked tax collectors in their towns how much executive committee reps paid in 2020 in county taxes alone.
Rep. Raymond Howard, who chairs the executive committee and owns a home in Alton, paid about $785 in county taxes last year and will save about $86 from the cuts he co-authored.
Rep. Norman Silber, who was elected head of the county Republican Party last month, owns two parcels in Gilford and paid about $1,184 in county taxes in 2020. The reduction in the county commissioners’ budget should save him about $130.
Rep. Barbara Comtois of Center Barnstead paid about $541 in county taxes on two parcels. The 11 percent reduction stands to save her about $60.
Rep. Michael Silvia, the chairman of the county delegation, owns two properties in Belmont and paid about $178 in county taxes last year. The cuts to the budget will save him just shy of $20.
And Rep. Glen Aldrich paid the least in taxes of the executive committee members. The Gilford resident paid about $35 in 2020 county taxes. His savings from the cuts will work out to about $3.85.
Those are pretty meager savings compared to the disruption and possible damage that may come to county operations, especially the nursing home, which bore the brunt of the cuts.
County Commissioner Peter Spanos said the $444,824 the commissioners asked to be put back into the budget were “essential, critical, and urgent” to the ability of departments — notably the Nursing Home, the Sheriff’s Department, and Corrections Department — to operate effectively.
Among their other impacts, Sheriff Bill Wright said his department might have to suspend drug task force operations because of the cuts.
The savings individual taxpayers will see are fairly scant, making it clear – to borrow from the song Price Tag by Jessie J. – that the cuts were “not about the money, money, money…”
So what were they about?
They were a sad show of political muscle-flexing that provided delegation members with a chance to crow about how fiscally conservative they are.
It’s good that the state reps who voted to cut the budget weren’t acting out of self-interest.
What’s not so good is that they weren’t acting in the county’s interest, either.