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Joyce Endee

Estimated tax impact of preliminary county budget up by 1.37%

December 19, 2012
WEST STEWARTSTOWN — Finance director Jennifer Fish, who will soon assume the duties of county administrator, presented a conservative hold-the-line budget on Saturday based on the county commissioners' recommendations.

Her preliminary estimate indicates a 1.37 percent increase in county taxes to be raised locally, but no salary increases or cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) are included except step increases, longevity pay, and sick pay already on the county's salary scale. Negotiations with the county's two unions have begun, but have not been concluded. Health insurance increases not to exceed 7.3 percent are included, however, as well as N. H. retirement system increases.

A new commissioner — Rick Samson of West Stewartstown — will be sworn in on Wednesday, Jan. 2, to replace longtime chairman Burnham "Bing" Judd of Pittsburg — defeated in the Nov. 6 election.

This pending change led the commissioners to decide to leave decisions on any possible pay increases and new employee positions until the new board is in place and the dollar amount of the county's surplus known.

Seventy-five percent of the recommended county taxes of $14,318,133 are allocated to elderly programs. Fifteen percent to Corrections, $2,104,550; six percent to Constitutional requirements, $879,093; and four percent — $559,730 — to "other."

State, federal and other revenues are estimated to cover more than half the cost of the now-proposed 2013 budget of $31,495,908, which represents a .34 percent decrease from the 2012 approved budget of $31,604,235.

The commissioners will present their revised budget to the county delegation of 10 state representatives in March for its approval, likely on Saturday, March 9. Traditionally, the delegation meets to adopt the county's budget in advance of Town Meeting, this year scheduled on Tuesday, March 12.

At the end of the morning-long budget presentation and discussion, Commissioner Paul Grenier of Berlin said that the county was "very lucky" to have Fish in place, ready to assume the helm as county administrator.

Collins is in the process of moving out of the on-site county administrator's house and into her own house in Colebrook. Fish has said that she does not want to move into the county's single-story house, but the commissioners and delegation have not decided what to retain it or sell it. The fields and barn at the now-shuttered county farm are leased to a Colebrook farmer, which keeps the fields open and offsets local property taxes.

The commissioners are meeting at 9 a.m. today (Dec. 19) at the county nursing home in Berlin.

No decision has yet been made as to whether or not to offer stipends to both Judd and Collins for continuing some duties that they have performed.

Rep. Robert Theberge, a Democrat of Berlin, is chairman of the delegation, and Rep. Larry Rapport, a Republican of Colebrook, vice chairman. One of two women on the delegation, Rep. Yvonne Thomas, a Democrat of Berlin serves as clerk. The 10-member delegation is made up of seven Democrats and three Republicans.

Martin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
Garnett HIll
Varney Smith
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