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Three outside agencies get recommendation, one doesn't

January 20, 2010
The Budget Committee agreed to recommend funding for three of the four outside agencies that submitted requests to the town.

The committee voted on the warrant articles after a public hearing last Thursday night.

Community Health & Hospice passed with a request for $25,000, Child and Family Services for $3,500, and Genesis Behavioral Health for a $10,916 request in funding. The Community Action Program, for $8,762, did not make the cut.

The Budget Committee postponed their vote by a week to give outside agencies and the public a chance to show up to the hearing last Thursday and speak on behalf of their organizations.

Margaret Frankhauser, executive director of Community Health & Hospice, spoke at the hearing, and explained that Community Health is a visiting nurse and hospice organization designed to keep the elderly out of nursing homes and within their own community. Frankhauser said that charity care in Gilford came in over its excess last year at 26 percent. This year CH&H is looking to raise $53,000 and asking for $25,000 from the town, while they plan to fundraise $28,000 of their own.

"We are asking for $25,000 to provide help for those who don't have insurance (or other benefits). Otherwise, we would have to pick and choose the service we give," said Frankhauser.

Margo Weeks, School Board representative and Budget Committee member, asked what would happen if the organization had to deny service to residents of Gilford.

"It depends on the service. We would never deny hospice care," said Frankhauser.

She said that CH&H would most likely have to deny service to "needy houses," with a child or elderly person with special needs. They would also not be able to take on a new patient, said Frankhauser who expects to see a larger roster in the town of Gilford this year.

"We have seen an increase in numbers in Gilford. We would not come to Gilford if the agency hadn't already cut back. I took a 10 percent reduction in my own salary," said Frankhauser.

Budget Committee member Phyllis Corrigan asked why it is important to keep seniors at home versus a nursing home. Frankhauser said seniors are more likely to be healthy at home, where they would not be as prone to health threats such as communal diseases. Seniors are also more financially sound at home; it costs about $13,000 a year for seniors to stay at home, and $32,000 a year at a nursing home, Frankhauser said.

John O'Brien, selectmen representative and Budget Committee member, asked why CH&H does not seek county funding.

Frankhauser said she was not exactly sure of the history, but she said using county funding and then asking for money from each individual town could be seen as "double dipping" in her opinion.

Budget Committee member Fred Butler said CH&H, like other outside agencies, may be out of the control of the town and its residents, who have no "oversight" in the organization.

"We have board members that are residents of Gilford. We choose people who represent the towns we serve," said Frankhauser.

Although the Budget Committee and the town have not fully supported Genesis Behavioral Health in prior years, Genesis representatives came before the committee on Thursday night to ask for $10,916 in funding. Representative Cindy Warmington said this was a tougher year than ever for mental health services, and that Genesis is currently $400,000 short from the state and may be forced to make some cuts. Warmington told the board emergency care will continue to be provided.

Kelly White, a Gilford resident and member of the Genesis board, said that the mental health needs of children and families in New Hampshire are "overwhelming."

"I am frustrated to find Gilford has not provided anything. We served 150 residents of Gilford last year. We barely get by on the budget each year. We don't get contributions from Gilford. Some towns exceed their contributions," said White. "Our largest group of board members are residents of Gilford."

White said that Genesis is partly funded by the county, which helps fund one-fourth of uncompensated care given.

O'Brien asked for specific numbers and percentages in terms of funding. Genesis representatives said they would need their director present to come up with exact numbers, but that they could get the board the information at a later date.

After representatives from outside agencies placed their pleas, Budget Committee member Dale Dormody talked about his philosophy on these organizations. He noted that the total of all four warrant articles, if accepted, would cost the town about $50,000, meaning $6 to $12 would come out of each person's pocket.

"This is a small town. Many of us know these people, and are familiar with these agencies," said Dormody. "Every year, voters approve some of these. We talked about keeping taxes down, yet this is when these services are needed the most. We are really inconsistent in what we have asked from these agencies."

O'Brien said that next year may be an ever tougher year financially and that he would like to see every number, percentage, and its origin written down by outside agencies. O'Brien said he was confident these agencies could provide good service, but he was somewhat concerned about funding details.

Budget Committee member Terry Stewart said he is not opposed to helping fellow citizens, but he has had an issue with the "mechanism" that outside organizations construct.

"It is unfortunate organizations are losing money from the state. It is unfortunate budget committees in every community are put into this situation," said Stewart. "Citizens are paying for these services. I wish we could just see the community vote, and not the committee."

Stewart said that although Dormody stated these warrant articles would cost $6 to $12 per person overall, "at the end of the day," with all the other warrants possibly considered, each individual taxpayer could face up to $5,000 in tax bills.

Ultimately the committee voted to recommend all articles except for the request from CAP. Taxpayers will have the final say when they vote on the individual warrant articles March 9.

Martin Lord Osman
Littleton Chmber
Varney Smith
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