June 27, 2012N. HAVERHILL — The Grafton County Delegation approved a $37.3 million budget Monday morning, which included further reductions in social services support and the removal of a recommended financial director position.
The County commissioners had presented a budget of $37,521,981 in early May, but the Delegation's Executive Committee trimmed it to $37,317,300 before the final vote. There will now be a 7.34-percent increase over last year in the amount that needs to be raised through taxation versus an 8.75-percent increase.
The budget for fiscal year 2013 ended up having a $1.4 million increase over last year, and, said Executive Committee Chair Rep. Rusty Bulis, it had two driving factors: the corrections department and the nursing home. Combined, the services make up more than three quarters of the budget, he said, which has created contention among the departments, given the County's limited resources.
"Last year when we were going through the budget, [Executive] Director [Julie] Clough said, '[If] you think this budget is difficult, wait 'til next year,'" said Bulis, "And she was right."
The commissioners' proposed budget had called for an increase of $1.7 million, but the Executive Committee found savings by eliminating the proposed financial director position that was recommended in an audit earlier this year. Rep. Jim Aguiar of Campton said that the committee would have liked to add the position, which had a line-item price tag of $77,584, but it wasn't as critical as other requests. It may still be done in the future, he added, but until then Clough will continue to handle the financial duties in addition to the day-to-day management ones.
"It's an absolutely necessary position," added Rep. Andy White of Lebanon, "but the financial realities are unfortunately [an impediment]."
Also cut were a social services consultant and the proposed clerical post in the Sheriff's Department. However, the committee did approve an additional attorney — recommended in the audit to help with an increase in cases — as well a new support technician in the Information Technology Department.
As for social services, only Tri-County CAP's drug treatment program saw an increase from the commissioners' recommendation, while funds were not reintroduced for North Country Transit despite an outcry from several patrons at the public hearing in May. The service, which has a bus route that includes Littleton, had received $8,000 in 2012 and requested $15,000 for 2013.
Rep. Mary Cooney, who was one of the delegation members who passed the budget, 21-3, said after the vote that she was disappointed with some of the cuts, especially to prevention programs such as CADY (Communities for Drug and Alcohol free Youth).
CADY, which asked for $15,000 and received $4,850, serves 14- to 17-year-old first-time offenders of nonviolent crimes and aims to reduce "additional crimes and recidivism."
"In sum I would say that we are being extremely short-sighted in reducing the funding for our life-saving nonprofits, which in the long run save the County much more than they cost," said Cooney. "This is a classic case of being penny wise and pound foolish."
But though the Executive Committee said the decisions were tough to make, it remained firm in believing that the budget was a good one — Bulis said it was agreed to unanimously.
"We can look at each one of these services and make a case for it," he said. "We never questioned or had any doubt about the quality of service being provided … but when you put them all together as a group, we have to think of the County as a whole."
"All in all I think it's a good budget," said Commissioner Michael Cryans, who with Commissioner Raymond Burton had approved their budget. "With all of the things that are going on with the County jail, I think it's reasonable."
Commissioner Omer Ahern was opposed to the budget put forth by Cryans and Burton, and said even now that he still felt cuts could be made. On the other hand, Ahern disagreed with the cuts to CADY and Pemi-Baker (it asked for $15,000 and received $10,670). Overall, he said, the deal was done and the County would just have to work with the budget.