The Belknap county commissioners have released their proposed budget for 2020. Their budget would spend $31,982,847 which is 6.6% more than the 2019 budget. They provide for spending $1,500,000 from unrestricted fund balance which will result in a tax increase of 6.4%. The county delegation will meet Friday, December 13th at 7:00 to receive a presentation and get public comments.
These figures will stun anyone that is at all familiar with economics. Belknap county has an aging population and growth is very limited. If the county was growing, and keeping pace with inflation (2.5%), the proposal would still be double what would be reasonable. When government outruns the pace of economic growth and inflation, the stage is set for an unpleasant and possibly sharp decline.
If the delegation is to take its responsibility for this budget we will need to reduce the commissioners’ request substantially. Fortunately, the commissioners allow plenty of room to adjust their inflated desires. If we look at the 2019 budget and compare it to actual spending we’ll see there was more than a million dollars stuffed in the budget that was unnecessarily taken from the pockets of the county taxpayers.
Let me show you the money. In 2019 the delegation appropriated $30,002,772 to cover county expenses. From that we deduct the ‘operational savings’(unspent budgeted funds) of $1,162,812, we get $28,839,960 which was spent on county operations. This amount also includes spending of funds that were not appropriated by the delegation. To get to a realistic budget number for 2020, take the amount spent in 2019,subtract the amounts spent without authorization and add 2.5% for inflation. That will put you in the neighborhood of $29.6 million.
Rest assured, that real world math would not please those that have to manage the budget. And I wouldn’t stop there. That budget includes an unconstitutional gift to a private corporation (Community Health Services Network, LLC.) of $620,000. [Art.]10. [Right of Revolution.] Government being instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security, of the whole community, and not for the private interest or emolument of any one man, family, or class of men… Taking of taxpayers’ money and giving it to a corporation does not fit the standard of ‘common benefit’. So,there we are, a budget that should be $29 million not $32 million.
If we look back to the 2019 budget process, the executive committee was tasked with producing a budget. We brought a budget of $29,144,306 to the full delegation (note that this was $300,000 more than needed) and it was rejected. The commissioners sold their fear campaign to a new crop of legislators and the taxpayers coughed up an extra $850,000 to ensure no management skills would be required.
If the delegation gets anywhere near a budget that I could vote for, expect a lot of drama from County Drive. I’m willing to suffer the whining if the taxpayers don’t get gouged in the process.