Belknap delegation eyes more cuts to $28 million budget
LACONIA — County commissioners began their meeting Tuesday night knowing there was talk among the delegation members of cutting the proposed $28 million budget by more than a million, perhaps by $2 million.
When the meeting was over, only about $200,000 was cut from the proposal, but county officials had only gone through about half the budget. The rest will be taken up on Feb. 28.
When the budget hearing resumes on that date, county administrators will ask that the delegation reconsider some of the cuts made Tuesday, especially funds cut to hire two corrections officers for the new county jail when it opens this fall.
At Tuesday’s meeting, administrators reminded delegation members that they had already voted for the jail and that the additional officers are what is needed.
“We hope they can be persuaded to reconsider,” said County Administrator Debra Shackett on Thursday.
But District 8 delegation member Raymond Howard Jr., who represents Alton, Barnstead and Gilmanton, said that is not likely to happen. Howard said in making the $53,344 cut, members left “some money to pay for part-time officers.”
Howard said delegation members weren’t sure all of the money is needed. “They say the new officers need to be trained, what do they need to be trained for? They’re (law enforcement) officers, they know how to do their job,” he said.
Delegation members were also surprised when county administrators brought the “program side” of the new corrections facility before them at a recent meeting, he said. They were surprised to find a list of planned items such as coloring books and reading materials that Howard said would be more appropriate “for a romper room.”
“I didn’t see any bibles on the list, that might have made some good reading for (prisoners),” he said, though he didn’t say if the list of materials would be cut from the budget.
Howard said he also favors cutting funding for outside agencies, including nonprofit health-related agencies, which are better funded by towns, “where people can have a say in it,” he said.
Delegation members are being tight with the budget because they don’t think county taxpayers can afford a large spending increase. Last year’s budget totaled just under $26 million.
“I’m getting calls every day from people who say they can’t afford their taxes,” Howard said.
Also cut Tuesday night was $65,540 for a new human resources administrator and $42,645 for a sheriff’s department dispatcher.