2022 Belknap County Budget

The county commissioners are troubled by restrictions placed upon them by the delegation. They have requested to have limits on transfers within the budget removed. Whereas they have a habitude of building into their budgets large surpluses, this would allow for spending far beyond that which is necessary. It is also a typical scheme directed at increasing the fund balance. Such excess taxation without need is egregious in light of the large tax hike coming even if we hold the line on restricting spending to necessities.

The law requires “Appropriations by the county convention shall be itemized in detail.” As such the delegation sets the budget by line items within each department. The commissioners’ request would have us violate the law by giving them a simple bottom line budget for the entire county operation.

The law allows the delegation to appropriate a contingency fund of up to one percent of the budget, ~$300,000, to meet unexpected expenses. As you will see in the 2022 budget, (and this is consistent with past practice) the commissioners use the nursing services department as a buffer for additional spending or for increasing the fund balance. This, in practice, creates a pool of money in the order of 3% of the county budget, which gets redirected to areas perhaps not contemplated for appropriation by the delegation. This unjustly increases taxation.

The Covid crisis, created by a manufactured virus and blown out of proportion by a government propaganda campaign, has taken a toll on people around the globe. It has broken our medical care industry. All nursing homes in the county are all struggling to find nurses. The county nursing home, funded by taxation, has the ability to outbid all others to acquire nurses at the most inflated costs. The unseen cost, should we choose to drive pay rates higher, is that we would steal nurses from other homes. Will it force the closure of a privately run nursing home? The adjustments made by the executive committee smartly balance the needs of our facility with the needs of all the county nursing homes.

The commissioners consider limitations on spending authority (appropriations) to be “a tool to try to bend the Commissioners to a small number of individuals’ political will.” The delegation has elected an executive committee to do the work of assuring adherence to the budget as passed by the delegation. When the executive branch of government seeks to remove oversight by the legislative branch, red flags should be flying. They are seeking a rubber stamp delegation. The executive committee is not interested in playing games of ‘political will.’ Instead they seek to hold the commissioners to following the law.

The commissioners are lobbying for the restoration of $650,000 which was trimmed from their bloated request. This is ~2% of the budget. If we look at the past decade we can see that the budget passed by the delegation – NEVER enough to satisfy the commissioners – supplies enough on average to leave ~7% to be returned to fund balance. This means that even after ‘cutting the budget to the bone,’ taxpayers were hit with a bill 7% higher than was needed.

Your memory need not be exquisite to recall that just last year, after the executive committee finished its work, the commissioners requested the restoration of $444,824 to the budget. This request was rejected by the delegation. At the end of the year over $800,000 was returned to fund balance. The delegation clearly made the right choice in approving the executive committee’s recommendation.

If you want to check my ability to forecast a budget, you can check my comments from last year. “Using such a sensible method will put spending for 2021 at ~$28,900,000.” In fact, the actual (unaudited) spending for 2021 (minus ARPA funds) is ~$29,138,000.

The delegation has high expectations for our department heads, and they always match their performance to that high standard. Our system of government is wisely divided such that the executive branch is not unrestrained. The legislative branch (the delegation) has a duty to appropriate only those monies necessary for the proper operation of the county. The law allows a contingency fund of 1%, yet the commissioners and delegation have allowed budgets with an excess of 7% more than necessary.

The executive committee has, once again, reviewed the commissioners’ budget and done their best to match the budget to real world needs. Their years of experience have served the taxpayers of the county well. The commissioners’ condescending remarks are contemptible and unnecessary. The delegation chose the members of the executive to do the work of carefully examining the commissioners’ budget and bringing a prudent budget for the full delegation to vote upon.

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