Commissioners recommend county budget with 1.1% increase

Daytime budget hearing on Monday, Dec. 9

November 26, 2013
WEST STEWARTSTOWN — The taxpayers' portion of the 2014 Coös County budget that the county commissioners voted to recommend to the county delegation of state representatives is only up by $163, 007 — 1.1 percent. The recommended total tax to be raised from the City of Berlin, towns and Unincorporated Places is $14,601,140, with the balance to come from revenues from a number of other sources, including fees plus state and federal dollars.

Two commissioners — chairman Tom Brady of Jefferson and vice chairman Paul Grenier — voted "yes" to the total budget, but Cmr. Rick Samson abstained since, he explained, he had had a medical procedure earlier that day and the anesthesia had not yet cleared his system. In addition, Samson said he had received the budget as discussed and tentatively amended at the board's Nov. 13 work session was late in reaching his mail box.

The approved budget of $32,583,833 is printed as a legal notice elsewhere in this newspaper. The two county nursing homes account for the bulk of the county's proposed expenditures.

The revenue side of the ledger is not a sure thing because of the state's tendency to use "budget neutrality" as way to push its responsibilities onto the backs of the county and municipalities, county treasurer Fred King of Colebrook warned at previous week's meeting on Nov. 13.

The commissioners made several changes that helped keep the projected county tax low, two of which are detailed in stand-alone articles: they turned down a request of county attorney John McCormick to add a part-time attorney to serve as a liaison between his Office's prosecution of felony cases and local police departments, and zeroed out monies for the day care program for those afflicted with Alzheimer's disease and dementia that provides a respite for caregivers.

The commissioners also zeroed out any funding for the Coös Economic Development Corp. (CEDC) that in 2013 had an appropriation of $40,000, contingent on its making quarterly reports to the commissioners. Grenier noted that the CEDC had made no reports. Earlier this year, the commissioners voted to spend some of the $10,000 they had reserved to develop a county website, designed to stimulate the county's economic development. In total, the commissioners eliminated a $50,000 economic development line item for economic development.

They also made changes some changes in job descriptions in the Berlin nursing home, agreed with the Registrar of Deeds not to replace all the hours lost when a part-time worker retired, and turned down a request for eight additional hours of support staff in the Victim/Witness program. The commissioners raised the dollars going to local food pantries from $5,000 to $10,000.

A $5,000 line item was added to cover the cost of any burials needed for nursing home residents who die without any known family members on hand to assume these costs. Such a resident did die this year, and there was no line item to tap to pay the funeral home, which apparently provided a dignified service at a reasonable cost.

The upcoming year of 2014 has 53 payroll weeks, and $40,000 has added to a line item created previously to cover the additional cost of this expense that occurs every few years.

The commissioners' budget will be presented to the delegation and the public at a hearing, starting at 10 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 9, at the County Nursing Home in Berlin. The commissioners will hold a short meeting at the start of the program and then meet afterwards for their regular monthly meeting to transact any business.

Nursing home administrator Laura Mills reported some exciting news to the commissioners that could result in a "win-win" for area veterans and the nursing home in West Stewartstown.

Officials from the V.A. Medical Center in St. Johnsbury, Vt., came on site for a lengthy visit to see if it would be possible to keep area veterans in need of long-term care nearer their homes by contracting for county beds. All three commissioners agreed that this would be a good for veterans and also potentially fill some now-vacant beds.

In other action, the commissioners approved Haven Haynes' request to store wood that he cuts for area residents who are needy in a vacant garage on the county farm. Haynes will be asked to sign a waiver of liability, notify the Corrections Dept. when he is on the premises, and agree not to cut, split or process the wood on site. Haynes' first name was reported incorrectly as David in last week's issue.

The commissioners also agreed to sell two usable wood wheels, two steel wheels, and one wood wheel suitable only for ornamental purposes for $250 to John Scarinza of Randolph.

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