Despite some speed bumps along the way, the Belknap County Delegation (comprised of the 18 elected State Representatives in the county) finally got the budget approved.
As predicted in this prior Bastion post, Rep. Barbara Comtois (R-Barnstead), made numerous attempts at amending the proposed budget in an effort to make cuts- mostly frivolous and blatantly symbolic. Observers in the gallery and online tell the Bastion that it was an obvious attempt to simply slow down the process designed to make the Delegation Chair Harry Bean (R-Gilford) somehow look inept. She failed, and instead came off as crass and speaking simply to hear herself talk. At one point, she proposed moving Federal grant funds earmarked for employee retention payments and instead purchase software. Rep. Mike Bordes (R-Laconia) criticized the act of “putting software before people” along with others on the Delegation who reminded her of the difficulty with maintaining staff in the current environment.
The bottom line is that, while it’s fine to absolutely question spending and make sure that government is running as tight a ship as possible, to put on a dog and pony show with the obvious goal to disrupt, is NOT doing the public a service.
Aside from the pointless actions of Comtois (and her few followers on the Delegation), the balance of the Delegation actually put in the work and took the time to fully understand the budget. Led by Rep. Steven Bogert (R-Laconia) who presented a detailed powerpoint to the group, it was obvious that Belknap County taxpayers have been well served. Bogert explained the recent history of the past few budgets and how the prior Delegations used “Fund Balances” to subsidize spending that did two things: It lowered taxes in an artificial manner, thus setting the stage for subsequent increases once the surplus ran dry; It depleted what could be called a “rainy day fund” that would allow the county to weather any unforeseen circumstances that might require emergency spending and also puts the bond rating of the county in jeopardy. The numbers are shown in this slide. Note that in 2021 they used $3 million to offset taxation and in 2022 they used $2 million.
While the previous Delegation may have TECHNICALLY claimed to have reduced taxation, they did it in such a way that set the stage for the needed increases we see today. That, coupled with the reality of the current inflationary times and the tight employment market, the current County Commissioners had no choice but to increase the budget. Unless the citizens of Belknap County want to eliminate services such as the nursing home or the sheriff’s department and a jail, along with everything else. leadership has a duty and an obligation to run them properly.
“In 2020, they used $891,080 of fund balance to offset the expenditures. In 2021, we used $3 million. In 2022, we used another $2 million to offset it. Now we’re in 2023. We have no more fund balance to use to offset everything.”Representative Steven Bogert
The reality is that, yes, the budget is up. Yes, taxes will increase. In 2023 Biden’s America, what HASN’T increased? The fact is, however, the Commissioners and the Delegation did a good job of keeping things tight while still meeting the needs of the county. Rather than scolding them like Barbara and her cohorts that include several FORMER delegation members, we should be THANKING them. It could have been much, much worse.
NOTE: The actual final budget was decreased by an additional $50K from the number shown on this slide. You can view Bogert’s entire powerpoint presentation by clicking HERE.