February 26, 2014WEST STEWARTSTOWN — The Coös County commissioners worked together harmoniously at their Wednesday, Feb. 19, meeting and voted unanimously to recommend maximizing the benefit from the county's budget surplus of slightly more than $4 million.
Their recommendations include a less-than-zero percent county tax, paying off the remaining $390,000 debt on the addition to the West Stewartstown nursing home, and adding $650,000 to an existing tax relief, a.k.a. tax stabilization, fund whose balance is now only $400,000.
The trio also encumbered — held over and earmarked — nearly $230,000 to finish 2013 projects or to cover known expenses, including $91,000 for safety improvements to the Berlin nursing home's entrance plus more paved parking spaces.
An unanticipated one-time windfall of federal dollars for the county's nursing homes created part of the surplus.
The commissioners explained that the proposed 2014 budget includes 2 percent raises for county employees, plus step increases for those who qualify.
In what appears to be a modern-day record of fiscal conservatism, the county commissioners will recommend to the county delegation of state representatives at its Monday, March 17, meeting in Berlin that the taxes to be raised from county taxpayers drop by .68 percent, leaving $53,431 as Undesignated Surplus.
The commissioners discussed their collective fears that the county's economy remains subject to a number of vagaries well outside of local control: the spike in natural gas prices, insufficient snow to attract snowmobilers, and business shutdowns ranging from mom-and-pop convenience stores across the county to the Car Freshener plant in Berlin that unexpectedly closed less than two years ago.