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Public hearing planned on proposed increase in county budget

September 12, 2018
OSSIPEE — The Carroll County Delegation is holding a public hearing Sept. 17, and will decide whether to add $382,000 to the 2018 county budget.

The hearing begins at 9 a.m. at the Carroll County Administration Building in Ossipee. The county budget is set annually by March 31. If any additional funds not budgeted for are needed, a supplemental budget hearing must be held. The delegation is made up of the 15 state representatives in the county. Their main responsibility at the county level is approving the annual budget.

Half of the increase being requested Sept. 17 comes from a request by the county commissioners. That board sent a letter to the delegation asking for $10,400 to fund the hiring of a full-time administrative assistant for the rest of the year, $18,000 for a market adjustment salary increase for non-union nursing staff at the county nursing home, $145,000 to fund the increases contained in the nursing home and sheriff's department union contracts, and $10,000 to fund a feasibility study to determine the needs for elderly assisted living facilities in the county. The delegation sent the two union contracts back to negotiations and the final agreements were not complete by the March 31 deadline. The nursing home was able to negotiate a nine-month contract and the sheriff's department/dispatch center a two-year contract.

The remaining $199,452 being discussed at the Sept. 17 hearing is a request from New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services that the county return the unanticipated "excess" revenue to the state. NHDHHS Commissioner Jeffrey Meyers made a presentation to the delegation earlier this year explaining that the county had received this excess money, called ProShare, due to his department's effort in making sure the county nursing homes statewide were billing Medicare for all eligible costs. The $199,452 represents 60 percent of Carroll County's bonus revenue. Now NHDHHS is hoping the counties will agree to turn back that money that will then be invested in the Integrated Delivery Networks statewide. Carroll County belongs to IDN-7, a function of the North Country Health Consortium. The IDNs are billed as "one-stop shopping" for healthcare and described on the NCHC website as, "statewide initiative focused on bringing together physical healthcare, mental health, and substance use disorder treatment. As part of the project, 40 partners in Coos, Carroll, and Northern Grafton Counties have joined together to form the Region 7 Integrated Delivery Network, or IDN. The Region 7 IDN is working to make it easier for people to connect with helpful resources in the community and get the care they need with the goals of making people healthier, saving money, and more effectively caring for those with multiple healthcare needs." More information can be found at http://www.nchcnh.org/region7IDN.php.

Carroll County is well-represented on the IDN committees that determine how available funding is doled out. Carroll County Jail Superintendent Jason Henry is on a committee as well as representatives from Memorial and Huggins hospitals, Tri-County Community Action Program, Carroll County Coalition for Public Health, White Horse Addiction Center, Northern Human Services, Children Unlimited and others.

At their Sept, 10 meeting, Ossipee Board of Selectmen voted to send a letter opposing returning the county funds back to the IDN.

Rep. Ed Comeau (R-Brookfield) told selectmen he is opposed to giving the fiduciary control over this money back to an unelected board. He also said he believes the commissioners and the majority of the delegation are not in favor of sending the money back.

"It is another scheme," said Comeau.

He also questioned the constitutionality of sending the money to an unelected board. Comeau also spoke against the elderly housing study, noting that the free market will build the housing if there is a need.

As of press time, if the items are approved, the plan is to take the additional amount out of the County's unreserved fund balance rather than raising it through taxes.

Martin Lord Osman
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