March 26, 2014WEST STEWARTSTOWN — No major changes were made in the Coös County commissioners' recommended budget by the county delegation of state representatives' all-day meeting on Monday, March 17.
All budget decisions were passed conditionally, however, because Chairman Robert Theberge of Berlin stated than an anonymous caller had warned him that if the delegation approved the budget it would be in violate state law (RSA 24:21-a III): "No county convention shall vote appropriations for the next budget period until 28 days shall have lapsed from the mailing of such recommendations."
The budget was mailed to the delegation on Monday, March 3, only 14 days earlier, according to county administer Jennifer Fish. "The caller apparently threatened litigation if the delegation approved the budget on March 17," Fish said in an email exchange. "So to avoid expensive litigation expenses, the 2014 county budget was only conditionally approved. The delegation will meet from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Monday, March 31, to officially approve the budget at the North Country Resource Center on Route 3 North in Lancaster.
Nine of the 10 delegation members were on hand; Rep. Yvonne Thomas of Berlin was absent because of illness.
All three county commissioners were on hand.
A total of $168,500 in appropriations were added to expense side of the commissioners recommended budget: $8,000 increase to the Physical Therapy Contract with the AVH Hospital in Berlin for its services in the West Stewartstown nursing home; $65,000 increase to Front Entrance-Parking Lot Project at the Berlin nursing home; $6,500 increase to Legal Secretary Salary to add an 8-hour position in the County Attorney's office in Lancaster; $4,000 increase to Education and Conferences for the County Attorney; $20,000 increase to Deputy Court Attendance Salaries in the Sheriff's Department; $10,000 increase for new surveillance equipment at the County Corrections Department; $5,000 increase to the Delegation Contingency Fund; and $50,000 to Special Appropriations to partially fund the Coös Economic Development Corporation (CEDC).
On the revenue side, the Surplus used to reduce taxes was increased by the same amount: $168,500.
"The County Tax amount of $14,339,928 remained the same — down .68% from 2013 County Tax," Fish explained. The delegation okayed the commissioners' recommendation that the remaining debt payments on the addition to the West Stewartstown nursing home should be paid, relieving taxpayers of this burden in the future. Some of this year's federal revenues are considered to be "one-shot" deals, and both the commissioners and delegation hoped to maximize the benefit.
"Although the day was long," chairman of the county commission board said, "it's gratifying that everyone kept their eye on the ball in their effort to deliver high-quality services without spending more tax dollars than is necessary to achieve this goal."