Commissioners' budget: Taxes to be raised up by 8.75 percent


Public hearing May 17 before delegation reviews recommendations


May 09, 2012
N. HAVERHILL — A divided Grafton County Commissioners' Office is recommending a budget for fiscal year 2013 that requires an increase of 8.75 percent in the amount to be raised by taxes. The budget released last week shows an overall recommended budget increase of $1,709,384, or 4.76 percent, and an extra $1,698,765 in taxes will be needed.

According to a letter released with the budget, Commissioner Omer Ahern Jr. is opposed to the overall proposal, while Commissioners Michael Cryans and Raymond Burton supported it. In the commissioners' April 24 meeting minutes, Ahern said he felt that significant reductions could still be made that would not adversely affect county departments.

Revenues are expected to be almost flat with an increase of only about $10,600. The recommended budget is $37,595,179, and $21,107,808 would need to be raised through taxes. During fiscal year 2012, which ends June 30, taxpayers were responsible for $19,409,043.

Still, the process is far from over as the Grafton County Delegation's executive committee — of which Rep. Rusty Bulis of Littleton is a member — will work on the budget through June, and the full 26-member delegation gets the final say. The delegation is scheduled to meet June 25 to vote on the budget. For fiscal year 2012, between the commissioners' recommendations and the delegation's final approval, the amount recommended be raised through taxes was reduced by more than $1 million.

The public will also get a chance to weight in at a 6 p.m. hearing Thursday, May 17, in the UNH Conference Room of the County Complex's Administration Building in North Haverhill.

According to the commissioners, "the single largest increase" in the budget is in the debt service payment for the new correctional facility. There were also increases in the Department of Corrections and Maintenance Department operating budgets related to the facility, though no new positions are being added.

In other departments, however, a total of 5.6 new positions are being requested on recommendations made in a performance audit that was commissioned by the delegation and released this past winter. The total cost of the added staff would be $308,194 and include a finance director, an assistant county attorney, a legal secretary, 24-hour per week information technology specialist, a clerk in the Sheriff's Department, and a part-time dispatch position made full-time.

Executive Director Julie Clough is also the finance director and the audit, done by Melanson Heath & Co. of Andover, Mass., recommended that she be able to increase oversight of the departments. Those extra duties would take time away from her financial management responsibilities and so a separate finance director would be needed. The audit also recommended more staff in the Attorney General's Office naming increasing caseloads per attorney and the number of hours being worked as justification.

In other areas, while county employees will see a 1.875 percent cost-of-living adjustment, health insurance premiums will be 2 percent to 3 percent lower than current costs. The county is choosing to offer employees an Anthem Matthew Thornton Blue through the Local Government Center.

The commissioners also said the county is budgeting $596,140 less in a Human Services line. It is reducing an obligatory payment to the state for "long-term care and home and community based care services for the elderly that are eligible in the county."

"Overall, this budget represents a much smaller increase than the county had originally projected, considering that in April 2011 we projected that the amount to be raised by taxes would increase 10.65 percent just from additional costs from the new correctional facility," said the commissioners in the letter. "At the same time we do realize that an 8.75 percent increase … is significant."

The recommended budget, as well as the audit, is available online at www.graftoncountynh.us/.

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